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8 Reasons Why Optimists Are Better Leaders

8 Reasons Why Optimists Are Better Leaders

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is.” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” ― A.A. Milne

All academic thought, science and philosophy on optimism confirms that a person who demonstrates the attitudes, beliefs and actions of an optimist will live longer, be happier and healthier than a person who does not.

If you want to be good leader then become an Optimistic Leader. This will guarantee you the success of leadership you aspire to.

So Why Is it That Optimists Make Better Leaders? Optimists demonstrate the behaviours and attitudes that support good leadership. Listed below are the 8 reasons why optimists are better leaders.

1. Optimists are Solution Focused

Optimists want to solve problems and improve the situation they are in. They will always focus on finding a solution rather than analysing the issues surrounding the problem.

The solution-based approach that an optimist leader uses promotes creativity and innovative thinking. An optimist is quite comfortable thinking outside of the square; in fact that is where they are their happiest.

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The key questions an optimistic leader will ask when seeking a solution are: What is needed? (Not; what is wrong?). What it going well? (Not: what is going badly?). What practical progress can be made to work toward implementing the solution? How can we measure that the solution is working?

2. Optimists Are Not Afraid Of Failure

Optimists do better than pessimists because their coping strategies are better. They are more resilient and able to quickly “bounce back” from failure and setbacks in life.

An optimist is a risk–taker and is comfortable making tough decisions. They accept the reality of failure and the possibility of making mistakes. An optimist will view failure or mistakes as an opportunity to learn and to make progress. They see failure and set backs in the workplace as a part of life. An optimistic leader is quick to respond and adapt to the situation at hand. They will want to get their teamsmoving forward and back on track as quickly as possible.

Optimists do not seek scapegoats or play the blame game. If mistakes are made they will want to know what went wrong and what could be done differently to avoid making the same mistakes.

3. Optimists Are Great Communicators

Optimists get their energy from people. They are good at creating and keeping long-term relationships. Optimists are comfortable communicating and sharing their desires for a better future or for better solutions.

Optimists understand the importance of engaging and motivating others. They have a commitment to succeed and will speak from the heart rather than using data, reports or research to back them up. To be a good leader you need to be a good communicator and effective at engaging others to share in your vision of the future.

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4. Optimists Are Future Orientated Thinkers

Psychologists have found that optimists are less likely to be controlled by the “Recency Effect”. This is a psychological term that states that the most recent experiences we go through are the ones that we remember. We assume that these experiences will continue in the future. For example if an organisation is experiencing the impact of a recession then taking risk or considering any growth initiatives would be dismissed. The focus would be on getting through the day-to-day activities to survive.

An optimist is a big picture thinker and has a positive view of the future. They would not be looking at what is happening right now or what happened in the past but will be looking at the possibility of the great things that could happen in the future.

5. Optimists Use The Language of Motivation

Sir Winston Churchill was one of the greatest optimistic leaders of all time. He was exceptionally skilled at using the language of motivation. He was able to turn the British people around, despite the fact they were losing the war, to believing in his vision for Britain’s future.

Winston Churchill was immune to the “Regency Effect” (see above). He was able to elicit the belief from the British people that they had a future and that they would win the war despite all odds against them. He gave them hope and made them feel brave. In his speeches he motivated and inspired the British public to believe that they were winners and that surrendering to the Germans was not an option.

Winston Churchill used a strategy in his speeches that was simple and very effective. The first thing he would do was assess the situation and acknowledge the reality of it. He then would present a strategy for overcoming the challenge. Thirdly he would create the vision of what the future would look like when they were successful.

Winston’s Churchill’s strategy was a strategy of an optimist. He believed that things would get better because he knew that he would make it better.

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6. Optimists’ Behaviours Are Infectious

In 2008 research was conducted by the University of California and Harvard called the “Emotional Contagion”. This research looked at happiness and how contagious it was. What the researchers discovered was that when people where surrounded by happy people they are more likely to become happy too. The research even calculated that happiness could spread and impact on people up to three degrees of separation.

Optimists are happy people. Optimistic leaders’ behaviours are infectious and they have a positive impact on the morale and state of happiness of the people they lead.

7. Optimists Value The Principle of Collaboration

Optimists do not like to work alone and will seek others’ thoughts and opinions before making decisions. They believe that the power to change or take action is greatest in a collective team.

Optimists will openly share information and knowledge with others to enable them to fully participate in the decision making process. An optimist leader seeks to have their teams engaged and working together toward a shared purpose and vision. An optimists style of leadership is not one of command and control but one where diversity and the expression of opposing thoughts and opinions are encouraged.

8. Optimists Have A Success Mindset

Optimistic people always focus on the positive aspects of a situation. Their view of life is different to that of a pessimist. The analogy that is used to describe the difference is, that optimists see a glass of water as “half full” whereas a pessimist will see the glass of water as a “half empty”.

An optimist has hope and a belief in a better future. They focus on opportunities instead of obstacles. They understand what motivates and inspires them to live a successful and fulfilled life. Negativity and fear do not belong in their world and in fact are inhibitors to their success in life.

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Research has shown that by having an optimistic view of life you are likely to have a more successful, happier and healthier life, than a person who has a pessimistic view of life. Leaders who are optimists have the ability to envision a better future and they are able to inspire and motivate people to work toward achieving that shared vision of success.

An optimistic leader does not allow their people to wallow in the dark and difficult times. They encourage them to acknowledge the reality of the situation, to plan ahead, take action and work toward a better and more successful future.

Anyone can become an optimistic leader, you just need to learn how. One of the best books I have ever read about how you can increase your level of optimism, is written by Martin Seligman . Martin Seligman provides fantastic tools and strategies for you to use to increase your level of optimism.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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