“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
We’ve spent a lot of time in this space talking about characteristics of great leaders – almost thirteen years, to be exact. And while all leaders are unique, those same characteristics seem to show up over and over again. Lately, for me, one of those characteristics in particular has been obvious.
A great leader must be an optimist. When I use the word “optimist”, I don’t mean someone who’s sitting in their office thinking dreamily about how great everything is and always will be. Being an optimist doesn’t mean being naïve.
The dictionary says that an optimist is “a person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or success of something.” I agree. For a leader, though, it means more than that.
For starters, an optimist must also be realistic about the situation they’re facing. Quite often we talk about optimists and realists as though somehow they’re opposites. They’re not. Leaders must be understand the reality of the situation they find themselves in, and still, regardless of that situation, they must believe that they will be successful.
The other piece of being an optimistic leader is that it involves action. Leaders can’t just believe that things will work out. They have to believe that their actions can have an impact on things working out. It doesn’t do any good to sit around and believe you’ll be successful and then just wait for it to happen. You have to actually go make it happen.
How do you view the future? Do you have a deep, core belief that you will be successful? Do you honestly believe that your business will succeed? Rarely will leaders admit that they expect failure, but some of them clearly do.
If you say you have that belief in future success, then ask yourself this: What do I need to do to actually make that success a reality? What impact do I as the leader need to have for the organization that I lead? Am I willing to do those things and have that impact?
Great leaders understand their reality and believe that they and their organizations will succeed. They also believe that their actions can and will help make that success a reality. Then they go out and make it happen. Does that sound like you?