Why Is Optimism Important In Leadership?

Optimism is a key leadership trait. Research has shown that leaders with optimism tend to be more solution focused having the ability not to get stuck in any problem. They are also better able to communicate a vision that is more engaging and motivating. Finally, leaders with higher levels of optimism are better collaborators on teams. The great news is that optimism is not set and can be grown in any person over time. The following three exercises are ways to grow your optimism.


#1 Best Self Reflection

This exercise involves focusing on positive images of yourself in the future. It uses the power of visualization.

Version 1

Take 10 minutes to begin to visualize a point in the future (One year, five years). Imagine you have achieved all the goals that you set for yourself. What are you doing? What are you seeing? What are you saying to others? What are you feeling? Take time to go into as much detail as you can.

Version 2

Another version of this exercise is to do it in pairs with another person. In the first round one person imagines that they are taking from the perspective on 1 year ahead. The take 1-2 minutes to summarize everything that has gone right in the past year. Each person would begin, “It’s Nov 2, 2021 and its been a great year because…” The other person role is simply to listen. I suggest you do two to three rounds of this. The first time can feel strange and we can be tentative. However, with further rounds you will be amazed how more confident you feel in verbalizing your future.

#2 How Optimistic Is Your Circle

We are impacted by the moods and emotions of those around us. When we hang around a person who is constantly negative or gossiping then there is a greater possibility that we will catch those emotions. However, it also acts in reverse. The more we hang out with people who are optimistic the more positive we begin to feel.

Write down a list of the key relationships and people you spend most time with at work, at home and socially. Now grade them at level of 1-10 for their level of optimism. At the end add up all the scores and divide by the number of people to get your average optimism level. If it is 4 or less, then think about how you might add some optimistic people to your circle. While there may be certain relationships, we cannot take out of our circle we can certainly widen our circle to include more optimistic people.

In the grid below list the names of people you regularly spend time in each category. Reflect on each person’s level of optimism. How positive is their outlook? How negative are they? Grade them on a score of 1-10.

Score Key

8-10: Congratulations you surrounded by a high level of positivity which no doubt impacts how you feel and your view the world.

5-8: You probably have a mixed bag of levels of optimism in your circle. This is an opportunity to add some more positive activities in your life and an opportunity to widen your circle to include more positivity.

4 or less: You may feel weighted down by the pessimism and negativity of certain people in your circle. The good news is that optimism is not set, and you can increase your score by widening your circle.

Refection Questions

1. What score did you give yourself? Why?


2. What did you notice about your circle of acquaintances though this exercise? How did their score differ from yours?


3. What can you do to boost or maintain your average optimism score?

Visualization Exercise

During this exercise immerse yourself in as much detail as possible about the situation you are visualizing.

• Make yourself comfortable and relax. Take a minute to focus on your breathing.

• Start to focus on the present trigger that you would like to change. Close your eyes, if it is comfortable, and visualize the trigger and your present response when it happens.

• Now visualize the same trigger but this time replace the old automatic response with the new behavior that you would like to see yourself doing. Try and bring as much detail to this as possible. Involve as many of your senses as you can;

o What are you seeing as you respond with this new behavior?

o What are you hearing? What do you smell?

o What are you feeling after responding differently (Happiness, joy, pride, confidence empowered)?

o Spend some time with these emotions?

• Repeat this often and certainly before any situation which potentially gives rise to the trigger.

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