Optimism and Leadership

Why is Optimism Important for Leaders?


Optimism is the cornerstone of all leadership efforts.  Not the Pollyanna type, but the belief that the solution will be found, the goal achieved, the obstacles overcome.  An optimistic outlook is often downplayed and yet, it is the essential ingredient for achieving results.  If leaders do not believe they will be successful, then they most definitely won’t.

Henry Ford simply stated it this way:  “Those that say they can and those that say they can’t  are both right.”

Ernest Shackleton on Optimism

Ernest Shackleton always displayed optimism in spite of all the setbacks he had to overcome in his famous Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1916

The following are some of his quotes that are lessons for any leader today:

“Optimism is true moral courage”

Yes, bravery is involved in optimism.  You must be brave to believe in the things you can not see and have faith that the outcome will be favorable.

“I have often marveled at the thin line which separates success from failure”

There are times when it is easy to give up. Shackleton and his crew could have many times.  This means to keep searching for the solution together until the you get the right outcome.  It does not mean doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response.

“You often have to hide from them not only the truth, but your feelings about the truth.  You may know that the facts are dead against you, but you mustn’t say so.”

As a leader, you must not share your doubts.  The team is looking to you for stability in the midst of uncertainty.  It does not mean to be dishonest, but to give information in a balanced and positive way.

“If you’re a leader, a fellow that other fellows look to, you’ve got to keep going.”

You, the leader, above all must believe that things will be resolved. This requires patience, faith and fortitude.

For more about Ernest Shackleton, and the Endurance saga, read Leading at The Edge.