Many people in positions of superiority or responsibility are not optimistic. In fact, sometimes we put leaders in place because of their pessimism. Someone who opens our eyes to how bad things really are – or at least how bad things could be.
Marcus Buckingham argues (via Matt Perman) that leaders must be optimistic. That really resonates with me. And I think that it resonates because it’s true. As I look at my life, I’ve been drawn to optimistic people, and I’ve been willing to follow several of them.
However, I’ve also been drawn to negative people, and it’s usually been because of their ability I mentioned above: shining light on problems or dangers. Alert me to some peril or horror and I’ll follow you. The difference is that I don’t seem to stick with the negative people. They burn me out.
So, I believe you can be a leader and be pessimistic. You just won’t be good at it. Sure, your edginess will attract some people, but they will either become negative like you or find a new leader. The crabby supervisor loses support while the cheerful shift-manager gains it.
Buckingham and Perman are right. Being a leader – an excellent, long-lived one- also means being an true optimist.