“ALL GREAT LEADERS ARE OPTIMISTS.
TO INSPIRE NECESSARILY REQUIRES A POSITIVE OUTLOOK.”
– Simon Sinek
There will always be the pessimist leader, which should be balanced within leadership. In large groups, a pessimist may not be a bad role to play — I like to refer to it as the “devil’s advocate“. Every organization needs to have someone on board saying, “What if XYZ happens?” And you definitely need to have a plan in place. But after time, that personality can disrupt progress if they are not willing to adapt and learn to celebrate successes, large and small, at the right times.
However, when leading a team, a pessimist has the ability to destroy the self-esteem of a great employee if given the authority to do so without a systems of checks and balances. In other words, I am directly referring to what I call the “90/10 Leader” – they dwell on the 10% of improvement needs rather than build upon the 90% of achievement and personal growth of the respective individual they manage.
I believe it is important at this point to clearly define my position on “optimism” in this “90/10 Leader”, so as to not confuse the reader. I am not a fan of entitlement. I do not believe everyone deserves a trophy. I am a realist and understand that it is not the job of the leader to line the road with roses each morning as their team walks out of the house. I believe respect is earned over time through a clearly laid-out process of consistently communicated expectations. Anyone striving for success must have thick skin, humility, accountability and a willingness to be vulnerable. But I am also passionate about a single attribute that I believe every great leader should have a firm grip on as a leader:
This is the foundation for the 90% in my equation. In other words, if you want to lead both effectively and efficiently, you must learn to connect with those you have the privilege to teach. That means get to know your people on an individual level and find out what drives them. Learn what their talents are and respect their boundaries. Lead with both intent and respect. You don’t have to be best friends with those under your lead — but times have changed — you do need to have a personal relationship with them to build a successful culture that is established upon a foundation of pride and accountability. Earn somebody’s trust and respect by being fair and open-minded to constructive feedback and be prepared to reap the rewards as a leader. Do it consistently and you earn the ultimate respect by being labeled as a mentor. Carry a mental black book to journal the meaningless errors in an effort to hold something over their head and you only lose ground in the effort to earn trust.
For the leader too selfish to understand, allow me to use the words of the great author, L. Frank Baum, from the iconic scene from the 1939 classic, “The Wizard of Oz”, where Dorothy says…
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
In other words, your style of management is no longer effective. Times have changed, and the ability to develop a culture of trust is critical to sustain success. If you’ve become so fixated in a quest to discover – and even reach for – the minute details, that in essence have no direct correlation or impact on the outcome, and feel the need (usually as a result of being an authoritative leader) to make note of the situation and hold it close to the vest to use at a later date to remind others that they will never achieve the level of power you possess, you are a barrier not only to effective leadership, but inspiring others to grow and eventually lead. Worse, you lose talented people and your company suffers.
There is a correlation between this leadership style and a fixed mindset, as well. This leader is usually less receptive to constructive feedback, does not have an open mind, prevents dialogue for the production of thinking outside the box and tends to be very set in their ways. Bottom line, without effective senior leadership guiding their team, good luck getting this gem to change.
The result is great people leaving good companies that could become great companies. They have the ability to be the difference makers. They have the courage to act with pride, take an initiative and run with it, represent the company’s objectives and mission and work beyond expectation to exceed expectations. However, the fear of autonomy and retaliation prevent them from achieving even their own expectations because they are always on the defensive for the 10% to come up at any moment.
Don’t ever allow your pride and ego to overshadow the accomplishment of those under your leadership. It’s not about you. A great leader understands those words and cherishes the success of others.
As cliché as it sounds, it always holds true:
PEOPLE DON’T LEAVE COMPANIES; THEY LEAVE BAD MANAGEMENT.
Go do great things today and make a difference.