Becoming a successful leader requires hard work and perseverance. It takes more than just diligent effort to create an environment conducive to success in business, the creative arts, finance, education and politics. Many of the most successful leaders share one quality in common: optimism. For some, biological factors may enhance their ability to retain optimism in even the toughest situations. For others, their optimism is learned – a function of studying other great leaders and learning from their methods.
Why Optimists Make Great Leaders
The Free Dictionary defines optimism as, “A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.” There are other variations to this definition but all share a common theme. Optimism is the ability to project past current circumstances into a positive future outcome. While there is some biological evidence that supports heritable optimism, even the most promising optimist must work hard to sustain that tendency during natural disaster, economic downturn, personal hardship and relational distress. Just like a talented musician must practice to perform flawlessly, an optimistic leader must practice in order to convey optimism consistently.
Qualities of an Optimistic Leader
It is not enough to be optimistic in a leadership role. The effective leader must also be able to communicate that optimism to staff, volunteers, customers, vendors and lenders. It’s true that many of the greatest leaders have been optimists, but they have also been great at communicating their optimism. Leaders like Colin Powell, the Dalai Lama and Ronald Reagan spent much of their time practicing their oratory skills so that their ideas were clearly conveyed. In addition to being gifted communicators, optimistic leaders must have an entrepreneurial spirit, strong organizational and administrative skills, a warm and welcoming manner, intelligence and courage.
How Optimism Affects Leadership
Every leader has at least one follower; this is the nature of leadership. There will always be fewer leaders than followers, although the most successful leaders may not have the most followers.
However, history has shown that the most successful leaders are likely to be optimists and that they are also likely to have the most effective, organized and committed followers. Optimists have the gift to paint the “big picture” in a way that makes followers willing to rally their support behind it.
Thus, optimistic leaders are futurists, philosophers and artists in their own right. Because achieving such a vision takes hard work, leaders who are optimists must also be able to inspire others to share the workload. In this way, only the express of sincere and sustained optimism in a leader can galvanize people to set aside their smaller agendas and band together for the common good.