Leadership in Action: Optimism & Opportunity
Leadership in Action: Optimism & Opportunity
Written by Ryan Warren
Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
What could the environment look like for leaders if every single one of their difficulties were met head-on with healthy optimism?
“Ryan, that’s so utopian! Sure it’s ideal, but it’s not reality!”
Not with that attitude it’s not. Really, it’s ok, I’ve heard far worse rejections to the reality that optimism with opportunity makes a mighty difference.
So how can leaders grow in areas of optimism and opportunity?
Leaders Can Pay Attention To Challenges
Healthy views on optimism and opportunity do not at all require us to pretend that challenges and temporary problems do not exist. THAT is what sounds unreasonable. Denying that a problem exists always seems to come up short as a way to move towards a solution.
Personally, I’ve never had any success in ignoring a problem. Closing your eyes, putting your hands over your ears, and saying “This isn’t happening it’s not happening not happening not happening…” - this isn’t leadership. And more so, it’s not optimism either.
Healthy leaders identify and actually become active in learning about a problem. Healthy leaders are determined to not ignore challenges.
Leaders Can Choose To See Opportunity
I love watching James Bond films. I really do. The gadgets, the one-liners, the suaveness, the team, seeing the bad-guy get theirs in the end-all of it.
I like moments in movies where the hidden door comes into play. An ordinary-looking bookshelf is revealed to be the home of a secret door, a hidden passageway, a previously undisclosed safe room.
Leaders can choose to see challenges the same way and instead ask, “What’s the opportunity here?”
Not every wall is a wall. Some walls have doors hidden in them. And, it’s the responsibility of every - healthy - leader to search for the book, button, or lever that will reveal where the door is. Your teams will thank you, your community will partner with you, and your own determination will become supercharged by the sense of optimism that helps you identify opportunity.
“Not all walls are walls.” That has become a line I use for myself often and with clients on a regular basis. You’re welcome to find your personal way to use it, and I think you’ll be amazed at how it can help you reframe challenges.
Leaders Can Select Fellow Optimists
Build your team, your squad, your crew - and do so intentionally. Keep the “realists” in the conversation, but allow the optimists - the true optimists to be the ones that provide great and timely counsel.
My team over the past few years has been an all-star lineup of healthy optimists that stand at the ready to help me see what I can sometimes overlook. Bring up things important to me I can lose sight of, and, even sings the lyrics to my songs when I sometimes forget the words.
These are the people to look for. Healthy optimism has an exponential effect on the life of a leader. We won’t always see eye to eye with everyone. And, when we don’t, it’s far better to listen to and understand perspectives. That’s not a line - it’s the real deal. Learning how to do this effectively, efficiently, and energetically is the ongoing opportunity for any leader who wants to lead in a healthy way and pioneer healthy teams. It’s worth the commitment, the intentionality, and the research required to make the most of every second you have working on what is important to you.
An Optimistic Closing Thought
Leaders, by way of form and function, always seem to find themselves in tension - or at least aware of it. For that, I’d like to wrap up this blog with an optimistic thought for all of my fellow leaders.
If you want to skillfully navigate these moments when they occur in your leadership, be open. Be pragmatic. And, most of all, be unwilling to compromise in matters of your principles.
Be open, really open. Listen. If someone can influence your entire thought process by sharing an idea, then your values are far too fragile to begin with - that’s an area where optimism can help.
Be pragmatic - really pragmatic. Optimism stirred in with your sensibility and action will yield incredible results and confidence. This is where things can go from murky to clear in a hurry.
Be steadfast - really steadfast. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Leave little room for interpretation - if any at all. Raise the flag of honesty and keep it up. Defend it. And, if someone shows you honesty in their own life, believe them. Be steadfast and do not compromise by allowing suspicion and indirectness to take over and drive for you. They’ll detour from optimism and opportunity and pull into the gas station of uncertainty and negativity - totally derailing you from progress. Let optimism be your co-pilot and lanes of opportunity will be available to you.
I like hearing from and joining in with optimistic leaders. I’d like to hear from you. You can email me: [email protected]
or send me a direct message on Instagram: @ryanwarren - the opportunities we have in the world today as leaders are requiring optimistic and brave leadership. I’m rooting for you to be one of the people that accept the challenge and become the 007 agent of your own mission. Black tuxedo optional. :)