Productivity, Leadership

The Leadership Series: How to Stay Positive for Your Organization Despite the Uncertainty of 2017


The world’s greatest leaders demonstrate great strength of purpose, tolerance, empathy, and endurance ― all of the characteristics of staying positive through uncertainty.

Knowing how to stay positive, of course, means that you must acknowledge problems and deal with failures in order to achieve a better result. Here are some ways that leaders can make a conscious effort to stay positive as a new and unpredictable year unfolds ahead of us.

1. Don’t let emotions cloud your judgement

“The sign of an intelligent people is their ability to control their emotions by the application of reason.” ― Marya Mannes

Emotions can get in the way of making clear and rational decisions, especially when the pressure is high and expectations soar. What’s worse, emotions are almost always connected to personal baggage that makes it impossible to act as a responsible leader, because they more often than not trigger reactions that are totally unrelated to the situation at hand.

A growing body of research indicates that when we are influenced by emotion, we are pretty bad at accurately calculating risk. Incorrectly judging the amount of influence we have over a situation, delusions of the size of the payoff risk-taking can produce, and poorly assessing the difference between skill and chance are all emotional calculations that get in the way of rational decision making.

The more emotion takes over your thought process, the less logical your thoughts will be. Base your decisions on the facts, not your feelings, and pay attention to the rationality of your ideas.

2. Project confidence and instill it in others

“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” ― Vince Lombardi

There are countless entrepreneurs and business leaders who are great practitioners, but they have difficulty presenting their ideas, networking with the colleagues, and handling their employees. Too often, these people lack confidence, and this results in lower morale and motivation among colleagues, customers and stakeholders alike.

To be a successful leader, you have to project confidence. Demonstrating this confidence inspires others to come on board with a bold vision, and raise the bar on work quality and customer satisfaction. Strong, powerful people know what they should do to be trusted and instill confidence in others. This is especially true in a time of shrinking supply and growing demand.

The biggest mistake business leaders make is to believe that confidence is a personality trait ― something you’re born with rather than a skill you can learn and hone to perfection. The fact is, confidence comes from believing in yourself and having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. It is the direct sum of consistency of mission and values over time, and it is something anyone can acquire.

3. Remain patient and respectful

“Patience is not passive. On the contrary, it is active. It is concentrated strength.” ― Edward G.

Bulwer-Lytton Patience and respect are far too often overlooked as critical virtues of a business leader. Given the ever increasing speed of business, it is easy to lose sight of the need for patience and genuine respect for the ideas, time and intrinsic contribution of each individual. In a world obsessed with quarterly profits and instant gratification, being more patient and thoughtful is undervalued to say the least.

Consider a 2014 study by Zenger Folkman, reported in Business Insider, which concluded that women are generally more effective business leaders than men because they have to work harder for longer periods of time. Out of necessity, they develop qualities of patience and respect which often yield better business decisions.

Women leaders tend to be ahead of their male counterparts when it comes to traits of patience and respect, but all of us are capable of it. Indeed, one should not mistake patience as a passive, complacent or weak quality. In fact, it’s a matter of ultimate strength and calculation to see the world for what it is and wait for the right time to act in a way that maintains the dignity of all involved.

4. Assume responsibility and accountability

“When there’s no one you can point to, or when something goes wrong, it’s your fault -- that level of responsibility and accountability is pretty interesting.” ― Matt Mullenweg

While you may think accountability and responsibility are the same thing, they are actually quite different yet complementary mindsets. Accountability is the willingness to answer to others for outcomes and accept the consequences of your actions. Responsibility, on the other hand, is a belief that you are the person who must make something happen whether it is a result of your personal values or the demands of your job (or both).

Nathaniel Branden, widely recognized as the father of the modern self-esteem movement, thought that taking responsibility and accepting accountability were the most important steps in developing a strong sense of self worth. When we fully embrace these traits we come to the realization that, “no one is coming” and help is not on the way. It’s a concept that will set any leader free: When you know that the responsibility is truly yours, you then become deeply accountable for the outcome.

Real leadership effortlessly combines both responsibility and accountability to drive results. Only then can you focus your undivided attention on solving a problem and revel ― not just react to, but truly revel ― in the pressure you feel to create a positive outcome. Amid intensifying market competition, a culture of responsibility and accountability stand out in a world awash with mediocrity.

5. Keep things simple and focused

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” — Colin Powell

It’s often said that leaders aren’t born, they’re created. And it turns out there are ways to speed up your leadership learning-curve: The smartest advice is to keep it simple! This is because we are far more likely to understand, comprehend and take effective action if we’re able to retain the mission ahead. That doesn’t mean you should treat others as unintelligent. It mean that you articulate philosophies that are focused like a laser on your stated goals.

There is a tendency among some leaders to believe that making things more complicated is actually a pretty good idea. Particularly in today’s environment of endless new business models and theories, we add pieces, prices, parts, processes and best practices to make things better. But in the end, especially at the macro level, setting out complicated goals and creating intricate vocabulary does not contribute to a common understanding.

Simplicity and focus are about subtracting to add deeper meaning. It’s a communication approach as much as a leadership tool, and it brings clarity to your vision.