Throughout my life I’ve looked at the world through a positive and optimistic lens.
While most believe this mentality is optimal, my experiences have proven otherwise.
I've often been questioned and even ridiculed because of this mindset. Some examples:
As a high school student I was regularly reminded, “Nice guys finish last.”
As a college student others would mock me for being too friendly and cheerful.
As a high school teacher I was told, “You shouldn't always be so trusting.”
As a middle school administrator a parent told me I shouldn't smile so much.
As a high school administrator I was told my emails were too “happy.”
As a superintendent I have been teased for being too "animated" during presentations.
This constant discouragement has caused me to question my rose-colored glasses view of the world:
Maybe I'm too positive?
Several years ago I visited a bookstore where I stumbled upon a book called The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell.
I picked up the book and skimmed through several pages. Towards the middle of the book an excerpt caught my attention that reads as follows: "I have sometimes been criticized for being too positive. But it’s a weakness I’m willing to live with because the usual benefits are so high. Besides, I’d rather live as a positive person and occasionally get burned than be constantly skeptical and negative."
"I knew I was right!” I thought as I read through the passage a couple more times.
This quote gave me a much-needed shot of confidence to continue leading a hopeful life when society insists I do the opposite.
As leaders, our daily mindset has a profound impact on our organization. Cheerful to cynical and everything in between - we must realize our mentality eventually trickles down to employees at every level.
One distinguishing feature of positive leadership is a trusting environment. When employees make decisions leaders have two options: assume the best and trust the employee or assume the worst and scrutinize the decision. Leaders who select trust as their default setting reinforce the positive culture they are trying to create.
As Maxwell warns, idealistic leaders must recognize they will occasionally get burned. When this happens, the leader would be wise to immediately address the situation. Not only will the defiant employee realize this behavior is not tolerated, internal skeptics will have less opportunity to question the system.
We all have the power to decide how we enter school each morning. We can choose to be grumpy and bitter or we can choose to have a smile on our face. While the latter seems like the natural choice, realize there will always be pessimists who question this approach.
Do you share my experiences? Similar to what Maxwell's book did for me, let these words give you the confidence to lead with a positive mindset. Living an optimistic life will pay off in the long run.
Looking for another great book discussing the importance of having a positive and optimistic mindset? Consider reading Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss.