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A leader’s attitude is contagious – for better or worse

In my experience as an Executive Coach, one of the most difficult challenges for leaders is always maintaining a positive perspective whilst dealing with the constant demands of their role. Leaders in an organisation are role models by virtue of their function. Employees watch them carefully and respond to the cues they perceive regarding appropriate behaviour. So, a positive persona is critical to engaging and inspiring employees. But we are all human, and maintaining a positive attitude through tough times can be challenging. This article provides some useful insights into how this can be achieved in practice.

Maintaining a positive perspective is often referred to as ‘bounce-back ability’ or ‘being bullet-proof’. But these descriptions are more suited to the world of super-heroes. In the more real and practical world of business, the term resilience is more appropriate and encompasses:

  • Being pragmatic versus eternally optimistic. Being realistic rather than overly optimistic leads to more balanced and nuanced judgement.

  • Having a strong values system. Recognising how far your core values are really aligned with those of your organisation. Values tend not to change, but decisions, people and direction will. Values tend to draw people together and shape the most important decisions an organisation will make.

  • Being good at improvisation. Having the ability to readily accept changing situations and being agile and flexible enough to take a new and different approach at speed.

  • Being authentic and genuinely interested in others. In building trusted relationships with others it’s important that they see you are interested in them as individuals, not just as part of the organisation/team.

  • Having the ability to remain vulnerable enough to feel for and with others. There is strength and connection in the ability to be able to listen, hear and be compassionate with others.

  • Reflecting and learning from adverse situations. Taking the time out to work out what went well or not so well, and potentially getting reflections from others, provides the opportunity to learn and develop.

The experience of coaching a wide range of leaders, across many industries, has provided me with real insight into the difficulties that leaders experience. They often report that it is not easy being the eternal optimist; in fact some find it a little wearing. Some of the techniques that I use to help them strengthen their resilience include asking them to:

These techniques enable leaders to reflect and develop, which is the difference that executive coaching can make. It gives leaders the opportunity to have the “thinking space” that will enable them to:

Maintaining a positive attitude at all times is not easy. But it is crucial for leaders, because their employees will follow their lead. Try some of these techniques, they really do help you remain positive; or if you are feeling lonely at the top, consider the value of a supportive but objective external perspective and look for an executive coach.


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