Positive Leadership

4 Tips for maintaining positive leadership

Positive Leadership

“In every problem there is the opportunity to make something better” — Skip Gilbert

One of the greatest assets a leader can have is the ability to see the positive and move people in that direction. When we have a compelling and viable vision, we need to engage people to embrace the end-state and put their energy into moving in that direction. In that journey, we will always encounter troubles, issues and challenges, it is just part of moving forward and creating change. As a leader we need our resources not to see the challenges as roadblocks, but to see them as expected encounters and an indication that we are making progress. We need our resources to enthusiastically see this as an opportunity to make something better. We need them to continue to see the positive.

Let’s not confuse seeing the positive with being naive. We will encounter real challenges and not all change will be received with universal enthusiasm. As we move to our vision of a greater state, the change may cause a realignment or adjustment to processes or ways of thinking that others find difficult to embrace. Again that is expected and there are change management techniques and strategies to help us make the transition. The key is to help people through the transition by staying positive and help them to not expend energy in maintaining the status quo. Positive energy helps us move forward while negative energy diminishes our willingness to make the change.

It is currently popular and increasingly common for a negative outlook to be viewed as having clear, critical perspective and wisdom while people with a positive outlook are considered naive or unenlightened. While we may all believe that there is a better future available to us, many leaders are only able to provide a view of what is wrong. These leaders have perfected the ability to project dissatisfaction with the status quo, but not to provide a compelling vision or practical first steps of action to get to a better place. In fact, there is much more to being a leader than just our placement in a hierarchical organizational structure. Real leadership knows that we need a clear vision and people so highly motivated in reaching that goal that the roadblocks are merely obstacles we either teardown or go around.

There may be many reasons for this seemingly prevailing attitude of negative thinking in leadership. Sometimes there is a misconception that projecting dissatisfaction with the current state alone creates change. They confuse negative thinking with critical thinking and the need to provide a view of a better future. Negative thinking just communicates that the present state has real problems. Critical thinking recognizes that there are real problems, identifies the root causes and provides clear direction for a better future. Just creating dissatisfaction with the current state, while a necessary condition for change, does not in itself produce change.

Immature leaders who have not yet fully embraced the necessary conditions for success may be imitating others they have viewed as successful or may be only interested in building their own resumes by spending a few years in a position before leveraging that title for another opportunity. Being negative provides the illusion that they can lead to a better state by joining the choir of criticizing the current state. For other leaders not really ready to lead, being negative may provide a defense mechanism. By being negative they are never surprised when disappointed, it is what they were expecting. Of course, negativity brings on more negativity which kills enthusiasm and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. They end up with an organization that is highly dissatisfied with no real release for their energy since nothing they do is good enough to be be recognized as having value.

Leaders with a negative perspective may tell you that they understand the problem, but oftentimes they are the problem! They either do not understand the full equation for creating change and making progress or they may not truly understand the impact of their actions and communications.

People are attracted to leaders who bring a vision and message of hope. They are more likely to commit more of themselves to the cause than those who lack hope. Reaching a future state that includes them, meeting their needs and those of the business will attract the energy of everyone involved. We can all see the problems, but a true leader is one that can point the direction to a better place.

True leaders bring a sense of possibility that helps to cause others to believe. When we express our optimism for the future and can articulate the benefits and provide a way to get started to get there, others will naturally follow. They will commit more of their personal energy and passion to the cause. Basically, positive energy is a stronger motivator than negativity.

To be the most effective leader we can be we need to focus our energy and thinking on being a person with a positive perspective. We need to help others understand the direction we are headed and understand what is in it for them. We need to offer a message of hope and confidence and encourage others to embrace the change and contribute their best thinking and actions to get there. We need to reward the positive steps and recognize those who are moving forward with the change. After all, the only people who get things done are the people who believe something can be done.

Here are 4 tips for maintaining positive leadership:

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

7 Principles for Personal Excellence

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” — Neale Donald Walsch

The following is an excerpt from my book: EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here!

It is important that we continually stretch ourselves to try new things and reach higher levels of performance. In order to try new things, we have to move outside the comfort of our routine to have new experiences and with that comes the anxiety of the unknown.

Simply put our Comfort Zone is a place where our activities and behaviors fit a pattern that minimizes risk and stress. It provides a mental illusion of a state of security characterized by regular happiness, low stress and low anxiety. It feels comfortable and routine. It is everyday activities that we are used to that keep us from feeling anxious, uneasy, and unsafe.

In order to push ourselves to learn and achieve more, we need to move from the routine, safe Comfort Zone to a place that fosters improved learning and engagement, which is an area just outside our Comfort Zone. This area is sometimes referred to as the Learning Zone. As our anxiety level increases we move from the Comfort Zone into the Learning Zone and finally the Panic Zone. The idea is to find the proper balance that helps us increase our performance without moving into panic driven anxiety.

While anxiety is not something we typically go looking for, studies have indicated that a small amount of extra anxiety move us into an area of increased learning and performance. When we mix feelings of success with a limited amount of anxiety we find that we are more engaged, creative, energized and ultimately satisfied than living in our Comfort Zone.

In the Learning Zone we will find that we will have an easier time dealing with new and unexpected change. One of the worst things we can do is pretend that fear and uncertainty do not exist. By taking risks in a controlled manner and pushing ourselves to do things beyond what we would normally do we become accustomed to living with uncertainty and change in a controlled environment and realize our greater potential.

We will find it easier to brainstorm and channel our creativity. While not a fully quantifiable benefit, it is commonly agreed that seeking new experiences, learning new and improving existing skills and opening our thinking to new ideas can inspire us in ways that few other things can. Learning new things and comparing that knowledge with our previous experience can lead us to explore and seek out even more ideas. As we see old problems with a new perspective we find new solutions and we find that it brings greater energy to our curiosity.

Stepping out of our comfort zone into the Learning Zone enhances our ability to grow. Our Comfort Zone is really not about comfort but about avoiding risk and anxiety. We have overcome our fear of risk by redefining our measure of success such that as long as we learn we are successful. Living in our Learning Zone is a no-risk proposition for us and is a key part of our foundation for supporting our journey to excellence.

Learn more about the 7 Principles for Personal Excellence in my book EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here! available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle.

Thank you for taking time to join our community. I look forward to exchanging comments with you on this topic.


Skip Gilbert