Learn this skill to lead with confidence

How developing optimism can help your team succeed

Welcome to For Leaders, your go-to source for essential leadership insights and perspectives shaping today's world.

In this week’s newsletter:

  • Strategic Summaries: Key insights and takeaways on the importance of optimism in leadership

  • Words of Wisdom: A powerful leadership quote to inspire

  • Leaders’ Library: What we’re reading this week

  • The CEO Essays: The weight of responsibility

A curated community of leaders.

Strategic Summaries

A weekly roundup of the most interesting, useful and entertaining tidbits from around the internet, to help you be a better leader.

Exploring how optimism leads to success: This article from RocheMartin links optimism to personal and professional success. 

Our take: Optimism is an attitude, belief and emotional skill you can develop. Not only is it an important factor in how you lead, but it allows you to generate a positive mood in yourself, even when you’re going through a difficult time. 

In fact, hardship is the most important time to foster optimism. But it’s not simply a positive attitude all the time: optimism is about developing resilience when faced with adversity, an ability to tap into emotional strength when everyone around you feels defeated, and the conviction that we can choose to make things better.

Science backs up the claim that optimism is important. This recent study conducted at the Genesis Health System in Iowa found that, when faced with non-profitability, massive cost reductions and layoffs, positive psychology interventions improved optimism levels from 23% to 40%.   

Key takeaway: Not only does the optimistic person themself benefit, but it transfers to those around them, leading to a whole team who are more likely to reach their full potential. 

Can you be too optimistic? This article from McKinsey and Company talks about a concept called “bounded optimism”: a positivity grounded in realism. 

Our take: We all know the extra enthusiastic cheerleader who espouses positivity no matter the situation. But this isn’t optimism. It can actually be a counterproductive annoyance when someone will only say that everything is GREAT.

True optimism requires a boundedness that is rooted in reality – a positive way of looking at a situation and an inspired perspective on how to overcome it, while also acknowledging the difficult circumstances.

Key takeaway: Bounded optimism from a leader creates a psychologically safe environment and provides confidence that everyone can pull through a difficult situation together.

What optimism looks like in practice. This article features Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, who talks about how transformative AI will become to our everyday lives. 

Our take: While we recognize that Nadella is biased (Microsoft invested $10+ million in the company behind ChatGPT), his confidence in AI and its potential to benefit humanity shines through when he speaks: 

“We finally have a way to interact with computing using natural language. That is, we finally have a technology that understands us, not the other way around,” he said at this month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit.

This example of bounded optimism is rooted in his industry’s belief that AI will become a big part of our future. Both Microsoft and Google’s stock prices surged more than 50% this year. Investors are inspired and are proving it by opening their wallets.  

Key takeaway: Even as critics become more vocal about the dangers of AI, leaders who speak from a place of bounded optimism can motivate an entire industry to keep innovating.

More resources on optimism:

Words of Wisdom

One weekly, impactful quote on leadership.

We’re optimistic you’ll like this quote by author and inspirational speaker on business leadership, Simon Sinek. 

It gives us a sweeping view of the importance of optimism to advance all of us into the future: 

The primary ingredient for progress is optimism. The unwavering belief that something can be better drives the human race forward.

Simon Sinek

Leaders' Library

Every week, we share an interesting long-form piece of content to contemplate.

Today, we’re reading Martin E.P. Seligman’s Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

We’ve already talked about how optimism is an attitude, belief and emotional skill you can develop. In Learned Optimism, Seligman teaches readers how to develop the skill of optimism, which can lead to a positive change in your attitude and beliefs. 

His approach empowers readers to make changes, giving them tools to use when responding to difficulty. The goal is to turn negative thinking into optimism, and eventually for this to become an automatic process.

It’s an important approach – rather than simply saying we must all think more positively, Seligman explains why breaking harmful habits and learning new ways of responding to adversity teaches us how to develop a more optimistic mindset. 

Why Tho?

Our featured essay this week: Why we get the leaders we deserve by Clint Betts.

We invite you to dive into this powerful essay and reflect on whether we do, indeed, get the leaders we deserve. 

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week with more powerful leadership insights and inspiration.

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