Leadership skills training: the importance of building optimism

Jan 23 2023 | Tags: Emotional Intelligence Training

Leadership skills training: the importance of building optimism

When successful business leaders talk about the impact of the 10 core competencies in the Emotional Capital framework, one competency in particular is praised for its transformational impact on workplaces, teams, individuals, and results. That competency is optimism.

Today, more than ever, being an optimistic leader is critical to success in our fast-paced world. In fact, our experience of working with high performing executives over the last 20 years leads us to believe that nothing is more linked to success than your levels of optimism. 

If you’re experiencing underperformance in your organisation, or you want to understand why optimism is such an important leadership skill, this article will give you everything you need to practically improve your optimism levels and reap the rewards of making optimism a consistent feature of your professional environment.

What is optimism?

For any leader, optimism is critical to success. But it is not simply blind hope or expectation that things will get better. It is about having a deep emotional resilience that enables you to renew your energy and consistently generate a positive mood in yourself, whatever the setbacks you may face. The real power of optimism, however, is its ability to transmit from one person to another. If you as a leader can be consistently optimistic, your team is likely to follow suit.

There are several elements that help us to identify optimistic individuals. How many do you share? Optimism is:

  • A conviction that we can choose to make things better.
  • An emotional skill that enables you to see opportunities where others see only roadblocks and difficulties.
  • The ability to show resilience and maintain a positive mood, even in the face of adversity and challenging situations.
  • A way of seeing over the horizon and being able to make strategically-wise decisions.

Remember: optimists have learned skills to bolster their energy and generate a positive mood, and those skills are then picked up by those around them. This is the no. 1 value of optimism in a professional setting.

Why is optimism an important leadership skill?

People who score highly on the Emotional Capital optimism competency have the potential to be exceptional business leaders. And the impact of optimism actually spreads well beyond the workplace. Studies have shown that high levels of optimism is the single biggest predictor of success in life.

From professional performance through to personal fulfilment, the benefits of optimism are simply too great to ignore. Optimistic people consistently outperform others on aptitude tests, which enhances professional intelligence and decision-making. Optimistic people recover from illnesses quicker, which aids productivity in the workplace. And by almost any measure, whether it be financial wealth, personal achievements or fulfilling relationships, optimistic people consistently achieve more in life than those with low levels of optimism.

By helping you to remain buoyant, solve problems, and remain focused on the overall strategic vision, optimism is simply essential for highly effective leadership. Without optimism, leaders will never perform to their full potential.

Optimism vs realism as a leader

There are, however, some reasons to be cautious in your demonstration of optimism in the workplace. As a leader, you set a powerful example to the people around you, so it’s essential to understand how blind optimism can actually be counterproductive.

For example, too much optimism can prevent issues from being duly considered and may lead to biased decisions that deliver poor results. 

The answer, however, is not to swing wildly in the other direction, because too much realism can lead to reduced risk-taking and growth. You should be deliberate and determined in your efforts to view reality as it is, understand how you might be able to make it better, and then plan, commit to and execute actions that bring that better vision to life.

Six practical strategies for building optimism

How we talk to ourselves, and the stories we tell ourselves about the events and situations that surround us, is key to our chances of creating a consistently optimistic outlook. Optimistic people understand the power of self talk. They are also clear, even if only subconsciously, that how you interpret an event is entirely under your control. Six strategies are key for building your optimism skills.

1. Always look for the benefit

Are you somebody who focuses on what has gone wrong, rather than directing your attention to what has gone right? Even in what can feel like our moments of greatest difficulty, it is normally possible to find something of benefit. An optimistic person will spend their time looking for that piece of value rather than spend time lamenting the things that went bad. Talk to yourself about the positive in your situation and concentrate on looking for new doors that could open as a result of your current situation. Optimists are skilled at containing their disappointment and limiting the psychological damage. You may find that purposefully cultivating an attitude of gratitude can help here. 

2. Seek the valuable lesson

After any event that did not go as planned, don’t spend time concentrating on your mistakes. Instead, carefully examine how you performed. Of course, you should identify any failings. But the real focus should be on learning how to correct those errors and committing to renewed action to ensure things are done better the next time a similar situation arises.

3. Focus on the task and seek possibilities

Do not self-talk with destructive comments like ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’ll never achieve what I’m aiming for’. Instead, consciously commit to clearing your mind of negative emotions and concentrating entirely on the tasks you have to perform. Visualise what can be achieved rather than what cannot.

4. Overcome the power of permanence

Once you understand that all events are only temporary, you are well on the way to improving your optimism skills. The least optimistic people believe that negative events are permanent. Their thoughts are shaped on the assumption that things will not change, and this encourages them to give up easily. Optimists do the opposite.

5. Don’t let troubles pervade everywhere

By understanding that individual problems are isolated from each other and from the rest of your professional life, you can begin to prevent negative thoughts from one situation spilling into other aspects of your work. There is no reason for a difficulty, challenge, error or mistake to dominate every part of your life.

6. Don’t take things personally

Bad luck or bad news is not something that happens to punish you. The world is not conspiring to make your life more difficult or miserable than everyone else’s. Optimistic people understand and remember that events are not personal, they are simply a succession of happenings. The least optimistic people see each unfortunate event as a personal failure.

What are the workplace benefits of optimism?

Developing high levels of optimism in both yourself as a leader, and your wider team, has significant benefits for the health of your workforce and your organisation.

Optimistic leaders cultivate environments in which their team feel increased levels of wellbeing and lower levels of stress. In turn, this leads to healthier, more engaged employees, increased levels of commitment, and reduced instances of burnout.

The contagious nature of optimism - in that one person ‘gives’ it to another - means the workplace benefits of an optimistic leader can multiply at speed. And it doesn’t just impact those employees already in place. Optimistic workplaces can attract, recruit and retain better candidates.

Finally, optimism is key when the pressure is on. High levels of optimism can help to keep people calm during moments of stress and disruption, as well as ensuring that the focus remains on the potential solution to any challenge rather than the immediate difficulties being faced.

Developing optimism in emotionally intelligent leaders

Optimism is the no. 1 factor in your likelihood to enjoy personal and professional success. It is also unique, in that it spreads from one person to another – making leaders uniquely responsible for developing and demonstrating strong levels of optimism as part of their daily workplace practice.

Take a look at our Leadership development solutions and start your journey to building optimism.

Share on: Share on facebook Share on linkedin Share on twitter