Sunday, 8 July 2012

What colour are your glasses?


Quite apart from passion, inspirational leaders have joy.  And this joy is real as it breeds a culture that is positive and affirming.

I am not advocating a Pollyanna approach to joy; one in which the negative is never acknowledged.  Clearly there will be times or circumstances in which tough, difficult and disappointing results are the outcome of legitimate and worthwhile efforts.  But the leader with joy will choose to see the glass half full and as such have an uplifting and encouraging attitude as opposed to the defeatist half empty view of things.

It really is a matter of perspective.  And it is a matter of choice.  A negative attitude will have to change at some point if the objective is to be pursued successfully.  Why not already be pointed in the right direction, at least attitudinally, by taking the positive position rather than the negative. The glass is still filled to some level regardless of how you got to that point. Use the positive as a first step to re-filling the glass until it overflows.

I cannot stress enough how important this choice is, not only to your team, but more importantly, to you.  It starts when you look in the mirror to start each day.  By making your first decision each morning to find the positive in each and every outcome predisposes you to a positive outlook.  With this attitude already established, it is much easier to encounter difficulties by looking for solutions rather than dwelling on obstacles.  You won’t be found ‘picking yourself up off the floor’ because the issue you confronted was not able to knock you off your feet in the first place.

Again let me stress that this is not an attitude of denial.  In point of fact, it is an attitude that is more realistic than one which assumes that there will not be issues and therefore is surprised and often overwhelmed when that does happen.

Those who make no provision for the possibility of failure are those who are the most naïve.  When confronted by problems, their initial response is one of despair and questioning.  The ‘why me’ syndrome takes over as they try to analyze the reason that they and their team are the ‘victims’ of their efforts.  All this does is to delay the real work which needs to be accomplished, namely, how do we get past the obstacle and move on towards the fulfilment of our objectives.

Consider how you react as a team member to a leader whose response takes this ‘victim posture’.  If you are naturally positive, you are likely to become increasingly frustrated and impatient with their negative outlook.  Over time you will begin to tune out because you sense the lack of maturity in the person.  The noble goals that you once supported are less achievable because of the leader’s response to problems and your support of this person and the team’s objectives will begin to wane. Consider the Leadership Equation and the need for 'willing followers'. (See the earlier blog.)

Conversely, if your disposition is typically negative, the leader’s similar negative response will simply reinforce your attitudes and sustain or accelerate a downwards spiral.  As the team loses momentum, more problems present themselves and eventually it becomes easier to abandon your attempts than it does to continue to invest the efforts to overcome.  Bad simply leads to worse and each problem adds to the weight of the situation.  Finally you submit to failure because the leader has not provided any encouragement that the matter can be overcome. And the outcome confirms the negative suspicions your attitude has fostered all along.

A key responsibility of the leader is to build this  realistic positive culture that maintains a 'can do' attitude even in the face of obstacles.  Why choose joy?  The answer is obvious!

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