John Baldoni recently wrote a Forbes article* on leadership. He used Shirley Temple Blacks quote, “I don’t like to do negatives. There are always pluses to things” as the spring board for his musings. Optimism is not some kind of soft skill; optimism takes determination and draws followers so it makes a viable leadership tool.
Shirley Temple had more than optimism; she had talent, worked hard, and had a charming personality. She was noted for many things and one of them is she worked as a child during one of the most difficult times in America’s history, the Great Depression.
Politicians and people alike looked to her perky films to encourage them during their own sad times. Perhaps it was during the Great Depression where she first understood the power of optimism and then went on to use it as an Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
There have been other leaders who have sought to use optimism as a leadership tool. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was once asked how a person could be successful. In what looked like a simple reply he said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” He told his listeners that everyone will have a choice between pessimism and optimism. The optimist is the one who sees difficulties and chooses to move forward with the opportunities that the darkness of difficulties only exposes. Churchill watched as London was being bombed around him in WWII, yet he kept the people of England moving forward by reminding them it was fear they had to be afraid of not the German war machine. Pessimism over their ability to persevere would have had them knuckle under to the cruel dictator, Hitler.
President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” The time of history Lincoln lead the United States was exceedingly dark. Families fought against family and the country threatened to break apart under the issues of slavery and greed. Lincoln surrounded himself with cabinet members that would argue both sides of issues of war but he alone retained the power to make the decision. Yes, he was intelligent, strong willed, and a hard worker but he his ability to cast a vision for the country kept him in times where he personally was receiving death threats and it would have been easy to quit. Future opportunities might have been impossible to fore see if he bowed under pressure and fear and became pessimistic during his time of leadership.
These are but a few examples from history. Now is the time of our leadership and we lead others by our example. We must not lose heart but train our brain to move out with an optimistic vision of our future. Optimism breeds optimism so, build into the people surrounding you by using that tool of optimism. Be enthusiastic and live confident that as we put our efforts to work and do what is right, good will emerge. Peer into difficulties that come as if they are but the dark backdrop in which rich opportunities will stand out the brightest. And never, ever give up.
Deb Bryan has 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. She has a passion for writing and Toastmasters International.
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