Three steps to becoming an optimistic leader

Three steps to becoming an optimistic leader

Staying optimistic during difficult times can be daunting, but it’s doable. In this post, I will describe a three-step process to help you think more optimistically about the challenges you face.


The three steps are: 1) Make an accurate assessment of your current reality. 2) Believe your future can be better. 3) Have the courage to act on steps one and two.


Each step in the process is supported by underlying skills that you can obtain and practice. For this post, however, we’ll just cover the basics.


Make an Accurate Assessment of Your Current Reality


Optimistic leaders acknowledge what’s real in their world right now. They see things as they are, not as they wish them to be. They do not sugarcoat nor ignore troubling facts. At the same time, they recognize and savor the good that is present as well.


Optimistic leaders do not waste energy regretting the past or pointing fingers and assigning blame. Instead, they extend compassion to all, including themselves.  


Optimist leaders consider what might happen in the future, but do not emotionally respond as if it has happened already. They stay in the here and now, which helps keep anxiety in check.


A Belief the Future can be Better


Optimistic leaders always believe that the future can be better, even if only in small ways. This does not mean they adopt a Pollyanna, “don’t worry, be happy’ attitude. They are not in denial about the challenges before them (see step one.) It means they hang on to even slivers of hope no matter how dire the circumstance. This hope then drives their actions.


Optimistic leaders do not sit around, waiting for things to get better. They do what they can to make it happen. They turn hope into action, even when giving up would seem to be the more natural course. This is not easy to do. Indeed, it takes courage to turn optimistic thinking into action.   


The Courage to Act


Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is acting despite your fears.


Consider steps one and two. It takes courage to see things as they are versus how you wish they were. It takes courage to hold onto positive beliefs when it seems like the world is collapsing around you. It takes courage to hold out hope, however faint. In that way, courage is the bedrock of optimistic leadership.


A Final Word


Right now, we are all in a global crisis together. Whatever burdens you bear, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to friends, family, and clients to offer support and to receive it. After all, relationships forged in fire emerge from the experience stronger than before.


This post was written by Gary Bradt.

Gary is a clinical psychologist and executive leadership coach who has delivered over 300 keynotes on change and leadership worldwide. He is dedicated to helping executives and individuals adapt through challenging periods of change.



If you’d like to hear Gary speak more widely on change and coping during times of unprecedented change, you can watch the webinar he gave with IBTM Connect on-demand here.

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