Five Ways an Optimistic Attitude Can Make You a Better Leader

By Michael C. Mack

Neuroscience tells us that optimists make better leaders than pessimists. Stressful situations trigger a fight or flight response, which may manifest itself in a negative emotional reaction. Our brains release chemicals that can be useful if confronted by a bear, but which could prove costly if confronting a church leadership problem. An optimistic attitude helps leaders to view situations from a constructive viewpoint rather than as a dire disaster.

04_BP_leader_JNCultivate an optimistic attitude as a leader so that when you are faced with setbacks, mistakes, disappointments, or failure, you can avoid the flight or fight response, says contributing editor Geoffrey James. When things are happening quickly around you, a positive attitude will help you make better decisions. James says leaders should try to change their inner dialogue when responding in difficult situations. Here are five ways optimists think about failure in a more beneficial manner than pessimists:

1. Pessimists take failure personally: “I’m a born loser.” Optimists view failure as a learning experience: “What should I do differently next time?”

2. Pessimists see failure as being set and unchanging: “I’m beating my head against a brick wall. Why even try?” Optimists see failure in the short-term: “That didn’t work, but maybe this will.”

3. Pessimists believe failure is an outside force they can’t control: “It was fate” or “I’m unlucky.” Optimists take personal responsibility: “I made a mistake.”

4. Pessimists blow things out of proportion: “Why do bad things like this always happen to me?” Optimists keep failure in perspective: “That was a big bump in the road; it’s time to move forward.”

5. Pessimists resent optimists who reject their negativity; they may even secretly wish for their failure: “Stop ignoring the reality of this terrible situation. You deserve to fail as much as I do.” Optimists openly encourage optimism in others: “It’s not as bad as you think. You can do this!”

—Geoffrey James, “5 Reasons Optimists Make Better Leaders,” accessed at 

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