Lead by Optimism

optimismMany years ago, I asked one group to carry two 50-pound weights in each hand up a flight of stairs knowing many would be challenged by the physical task and sure enough, we subsequently engaged in all kinds of reasons why the challenge would seem unattainable. I then went to another group of similar skills and proposed the same task but this time, with 100-pound weights. This time however, after about 5 minutes of the same type of despondent dialogue as with the first group, I changed it to 50-pound weights. The second group, assuming they had just gotten a huge break with lesser weights to carry, then proceeded with excitement to a significantly higher completion percentage than the first group. Many psychologists have done this kind of study in the past with almost identical results. What can we learn about leadership from this?

The discernible variable is the sense of optimism of the second group, though both groups ultimately had the same task (50-pound weights to carry.) For leaders who need their teams to be successful, the lesson is that instead of focusing on the parameters of any goal, the true variable for achievement of the goal actually rests in the optimism that a leader can authentically instill in the team. In the study above, neurologically, the optimism hormones, given the change in goals in the second group, lead to (1) elimination of disablers and (2) exploration of new neuropathways to find otherwise ignored ways for achieving the goal.

This week, look at the goals of your teams. Focus especially on those that have a high degree of failure and try to infuse a sense of optimism. As a leader, this is your role. Not only will you increase the probability of success but you will see it happening with more smiles and less wounded souls.

This week, look at the goals of your teams. Focus especially on those that have a high degree of failure and try to infuse a sense of optimism. As a leader, this is your role. Not only will you increase the probability of success but you will see it happening with more smiles and less wounded souls.

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