General Bernard Montgomery defined leadership as “the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” An important character trait required to inspire and motivate people is positivity, the practice of being positive or optimistic in attitude. People usually do not willingly follow someone who doesn’t believe and express both an appreciation for today and a potential for the future.
A positive attitude persistently sees the upside, whether it be in circumstances or in people. This is not a “Pollyanna” attitude that is blind to any challenges or problems. Instead it is the attitude that the organization and the people in it are capable of addressing and overcoming challenges and setbacks. It is necessary to recognize problems or failures and make necessary adjustments or course corrections. A capable leader is prepared and able to cope with crises, but a positive leader sees setbacks as learning experiences and makes the most of every opportunity to grow the capability and confidence of the organization. A positive leader is realistic about the challenges while being confident in both people and the outcome.
A leader’s positive attitude builds a strong and productive organization. This attitude presents these advantages for the organization:
- Positive leaders develop a positive culture. Attitudes are contagious. A positive attitude in the leader spreads into the culture and the attitudes of team members.
- Positive leaders communicate a positive vision. This vision gives others the ability to see a bright future for the organization and the potential to attain it.
- Positive leaders result in people being more productive. Positivity produces energy, while negativity saps energy. Energized people are more productive.
- Positive leaders attract good people to the organization. A positive environment is a more pleasant place to work. A negative attitude will drive away good people.
- Positive leaders build strong relationships. People are attracted to positivity. It opens communication channels and draws people in.
- Positive leaders create connected teams. A positive culture enhances collaboration and teamwork. A spirit of unity grows from the positive vibe.
- Positive leaders believe in their people and work to develop them. People appreciate validation and positive feedback, which helps them see the possibility of growth and advancement. Even corrective feedback is presented in a positive form as growth opportunities.
- Positive leaders see learning opportunities and take advantage of them. The silver lining in setbacks or failures is the learning opportunities and growth that result.
- Positive leaders are focused on continuous improvement both for themselves and their organization. They are committed to excellence and their confidence is based on their ability to continue developing their capabilities.
- Positive leaders value today and are confident about the future. A positive outlook extends equally to both the little things and the big things, the current things and the future. A positive attitude encompasses both gratitude and expectation.
The positive attitude of the leader affects the attitude and environment of the organization, developing energy and satisfaction. Confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as the organization is motivated to move forward.
Not everyone is naturally positive. How does one improve or even maintain the necessary positive attitude? Here are just a few tips for building up your positivity:
- Know your “why.” As Simon Sinek has told us, the “why” behind what we do is important. Understanding what motivates us and then doing what we love produces a level of both drive and satisfaction that translates into positivity.
- Tell yourself to be positive. Self-talk and self-affirmation can grow your positivity. Sometimes this self-talk is necessary to quiet an internal critical voice.
- Surround yourself with positive people. As previously mentioned, attitude can be contagious. Find a peer group that provides validation and affirmation.
- Find some humor. Lighten up and don’t take yourself so seriously. It is easier to be positive when you are relaxed. Develop the habit of looking for the bright side of things.
- Exercise and stay fit. Endorphins are great mood lifters. When you do what you know you should do, you feel better about yourself. When you feel good about yourself, positive thoughts lead to a positive attitude.
Leadership’s goal is to inspire and motivate the people around us in order to achieve a vision. A positive attitude is necessary to do this. Without positivity the people around us are left wondering and wandering. With positive leadership, people are imbued with a confidence of their own.
Ken is a business strategy consultant and leadership coach. His passion is helping companies and people grow and succeed. With an engineering degree and an MBA, he spent more than 20 years working in M&A and business development in the corporate world before founding New Horizon Partners, Inc. in 2002. His consulting practice works with a wide variety of industrial companies, helping them make good decisions about where and how to compete and building their leadership capabilities. To read other articles by Ken on business strategy and leadership, visit the New Horizon Partners website.