Inspiring Voices of Optimistic Leadership
This is the company you want to keep!
Dominic Barton, former Global Managing Director, McKinsey
“Optimism is at the very core of leadership. The best leaders I have encountered in my career are those that remain optimistic –- and ambitious -– for their organisations even in the face of great adversity. They are those whose optimism enables them to recognise the potential in others, and help them develop to be leaders themselves.”
Robert Masters, Chair, Centre for Optimism
“Leadership and optimism are the two key elements the community wants in today's unsettled world. Leaders must have optimism as the foundation for all their policies; and they must deliver it through sound, confident and stable leadership. Growth, employment, equality, innovation, tax, health, education, security all require this thinking. Communities not only expect it, but also deserve it.”
James Strock, Serve to Lead and Member of The Centre for Optimism Advisory Board
"Vision is the ultimate source of all leadership. Optimism is vision girded for battle. Optimism can be a shape-shifting and protean force, moving like water past all obstacles, breaking a path of love, expressed in courage."
David Collinson, Distinguished Professor of Leadership & Organisation, Lancaster University
"Effective leadership combines optimism with informed critical thinking; positivity with a willingness to confront difficult realities; and an upbeat vision with a capacity to listen to alternative voices. This approach to leadership empowers people and, more importantly, does not place them in harm’s way."
Richard Stengel, Former USA Under-Secretary-of-State
"The projection of optimism is a hallmark of great leaders, and FDR might have been our greatest model of that presidential virtue. But from the first, he was clear that in times of crisis, optimism also required realism — realism in the form of honesty about the nature of the challenge itself. He understood that to engage a whole nation, he could not sugarcoat the task ahead. Optimism had to be earned."
Rebecca Elvy, Leading from Within
"Leadership is optimism in action. You cannot be a leader unless you believe that things can and will be better - and more importantly, better because of the intervention and action that you enable and empower. People might not see the way forward themselves, but you shine the light and show them the way. This must not be confused with a lack of realism, though. Because if you mislead people with blind optimism, you will lose their trust, and they will never again believe that the light they can see way off in the distance is actually the end of the tunnel."
President Bill Clinton
“I am the ultimate optimist: I always see the glass as half full”
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia
"At the best of times and the worst of times I'm always optimistic."
Peter Pellegrini, Prime Minister of Slovakia
"I'm a very optimistic person"
"People are naturally drawn to leaders who see the world through a lens of optimism."
Ernie Bower, Founder of BowerGroupAsia
“Leadership requires optimism and the world requires optimistic leaders.”
Charles Figley, Tulane University
"Leaders who are optimistic have the ability to see the ‘opportunities’ in adversity and believe in a positive outcome."
Theresa Moltoni OAM, President of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland
“Optimism in leadership destroys the barriers to success. Embracing optimism empowers us to ignore the obstacles that might otherwise prevent us from reaching our potential as organisations, as communities, as teams, as families and as individuals.”
Ann Fastiggi and Darleen DeRosa
"Optimists make strong leaders since they are open to innovation, demonstrate big picture thinking, inspire employees and deal with adversity with a positive attitude"
Frank Smallwood, Barcaldine Regional Council
“In my opinion, optimism is driven from the top. If our business leaders are optimistic about the future, their actions will likely lead to more opportunity. If there is sustained optimism, this could and should filter down to create opportunities at the very base level. I believe our current optimism is likely to go that deep.”
Peter Crawley, MD of Growing Innovations Management
“Optimism is inbred in us all that is how we got this far over the past millennia. It is the seed from the dream planted in those that follow (tribe, clan, families, workers, defenders and the young) by the leaders that stand up raise the flag and gain consensus to plan the pathways they will confidently as one stride. The highway lit bright by optimism, trust, loyalty and the belief that action is the guide and direction toward attainment, achievement fulfillment. The case for optimism... is in the proof from where we have come and knowing there are many many millennia still to travel, together!”
Neil Kuruppu, CEO of PepperStack Global
“I believe that optimism is a by-product of leadership. Leadership is the sincerely crazy belief that one can shape the world. I sometimes feel that I am walking a tight-rope that is tethered at one end and where people see a haze in front, I see the rope is definitely tethered at the other and I am convincing people to follow me on that tight-rope. Those who do follow believe in my belief. Call it optimism if you like, but in my opinion it is unbridled self-conviction that a leader can truly change the world for the better despite all the impeding forces around us. In conclusion focusing on the ‘noise of negativity’ is not an option if you are walking a tight rope.”
Alex de Waal, CEO at Greyhound Australia
Both optimistic & pessimistic mindsets have the propensity to prevail, one leads to discovery & the other to desperation. I have yet to discover a positive solution born from a desperate mind, whereas desperate situations often bear extraordinary solutions!
Elizabeth Vega, CEO of Informed Solutions
“It often said that people who are depressed tend to be fixated on a past that they can't change or go back to. People who are anxious, tend to worry about a future that they can't control. The most balanced and optimistic people are generally those that make the most of the opportunities in the here and now. Just saying, however, I suspect that they also make the best leaders and role models.’
“I would like to see leadership as people who ‘will stand for something rather than fall for anything.’ Leaders who aren’t afraid to stand for what is right and true regardless of the consequences (thinking of politics here). Or without regard to the polls! Leaders who inspire confidence and who inspire others to lead.”
Winnie Hart, Entrepreneurs Organisation
Remain as optimistic as possible. How you show up in a crisis has a significant impact. Positive thoughts and actions focus on strengths, successes, opportunities and collaboration. Leaders radiate trust, hope and optimism that leads to positive energy, confidence and purpose.
Heston Russell, Department of Defence
"Optimism, and in leaders particularly, is essential to enable the conditions for creativity and authenticity to flourish. Supporting the realisation of hidden opportunities and potential to be unlocked or developed."
"I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward."
“Optimism is the essence of every conscious leader: The belief that no matter what you will find a way. Optimism is a precursor to success and the optimistic leader encourages a culture of creative thinking."
Denis Henry, Chairman of the Royal Flying Doctor Service
“Optimism about the future and about the essential goodness in the majority of your community and workforce is the fuel for the certainty and commitment a leader needs.”
Ron Wilson, CEO of Navy Health
“Every year in the last century, the world has got richer, healthier and more tolerant. Along the way, there have been many setbacks and too much suffering but we seem to retrieve the situation - leaders such as Churchill and Roosevelt defeated evil and Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul 11 defeated communism. Great leaders see to it that good overcomes evil.”
Melinda Muth, Management Educator and Company Director
“Positive leadership, the words and actions of the leader, sets the tone from the top. It leads to beneficial relationships which are at the heart of good decision-making and top performance. Positive leadership creates a virtuous cycle of beneficial relationships leading to effective conversations, and encouraging and affirmative language built on the power of positive words.”
Fiona Lang, COO, BBC Worldwide Aust & NZ
“As an optimist, I love that leadership inspiration exists all around us if we are prepared to look for it. You can see it watching on the side line of school or club sport. You can see it in the more tender and heartfelt moments watching as friends or colleagues go through tough times when they keep moving forward. What they are really doing is leading themselves through change. And, you can see it every day in business, in the behaviours and values we expect from each other. What we accept or do not accept defines our leadership.”
Dr Louise Schaper
"To lead with meaning and to live with meaning, you must dare to be optimistic."
“I’m optimistic because we get so little time to do good. Because of all the pressures, all the challenges that confront leadership, you have to make the most of every opportunity you have. You can't afford, in my view, to dwell or obsess about all the things that can go wrong or that are in your way. There is a joy, a real joy, in achieving something, particularly as a political leader, on behalf of the people you represent. And it might be something little or something unexpected, or it might be something even grander.“
Yasmahne Hanel, Director Industry Development & Policy, Queensland Department of Tourism
Optimism can't exist without leadership - it is required to inspire, grow and develop. People won't follow if there is no dream or aspiration to stretch for.
Shannon Togawa Mercer
"Optimism is political power."
Wade Kapszukiewicz, Mayor, City of Toledo, Ohio
“I’m not sure if I have the “Character of the Happy Warrior” that William Wordsworth wrote about so many years ago. I just know it’s easier to lead people when you do so with a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye.”
Nina Greig-Towers, The Future Business Council
“Not being optimistic about your work, your team or about you illustrates that something major is failing or there are deep failures in your work. Whatever it may be to be a leader is to give hope, happiness, education, motivation and so on. Not being optimistic doesn’t allow you to believe in the impossible, thus your team never striving for the impossible.”
Donna Petrovich, Former Member of Parliament
“With such a sceptical community, trust and integrity in leadership are vital in re building faith in leadership. We need charismatic and credible leaders who deliver outcomes! I am optimistic.”
Derek Rowe, Creator of CSAR
“Keep the word leadership and remove optimism and what are you left with? Hopelessness. Hope is the epicentre of leadership, framing EI, trust, consultation and all the other traits that usually appear in those top 10 lists of what leaders need. Hope. Without it, why lead? Where are you headed? Mandela, Churchill, Jobs, Gandhi. They all had hope, at times against all odds. It's where belief in self, others, causes, products etc. comes from. Optimism and hope? Pretty much the same thing I reckon.”
Leaders need to act to create an optimistic environment that positions employees to do their best work.
Meg O'Connell, Executive Director of the Allyn Family Foundation
"Really good leaders are impatiently optimistic. There always has to be a kernel or some sense of hope. Study the data, but you never know if it's going to work. You got to take a risk to try it.
See full interview "Meg O’Connell on leadership: Really good leaders are impatiently optimistic""
"The recognition of success must always be greater than the discussion of failure. Optimism is the insulation to protect a leader from the negativity of doubt."
"Leaders must demonstrate a spirit of purpose and optimism to reinforce the idea that an uncertain future has the potential to be a better future."
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo
“A leader should convey optimism and encourage his or her people, even though there are many difficult challenges.”
“There is no country on earth that prospers without optimism”
President Tsai Ing-wen, Republic of China on Taiwan
"We will face the future with optimism and overcome challenges with determination."
Dr Tommy Weir
"A leader’s optimism spreads further than their circle of support and radiates longer than the ring of the words. The optimistic leader describes what can be achieved. They talk about it. They’re excited about it. They inspire others to see coming success. And more so, they give their teams a reason to embrace this belief.”
Alma Besserdin, Wimmigrants Founder
“Optimism has been a key to humans helping them develop, progress and learn. Optimism and empathy is what we are looking for in our leaders.”
“Optimism is a cornerstone of knowing how to lead a team. Learn how being optimistic can help leaders show their teams that the future looks bright."
The Honourable Chris Pearce, MD of Lawson Delaney
“Optimism is an essential element in achievement and fulfillment not just at a personal level but also at an organisational level. Optimism is an infectious factor in assisting people to become leaders and to make changes in their day-to-day lives.”
Professor Sandra Levitsky, University of Michigan
“I believe there is tremendous power in optimism. And I'm not talking about emotional power or psychological power. I'm actually talking about real political power."
Jamie Dimon, Chairman, JPMorgan Chase & Co
“By nature, I am an optimist. Despite geopolitical and economic challenges, I believe the world’s best days remain ahead.”
Rod Sims, Chair, ACCC
“The more optimistic you are the more you will achieve. Pessimism means you achieve less as it is very hard to exceed your own expectations.”
“I am absolutely optimistic about the future. It is what we make it! Leadership is all about having a vision, sharing it with others and bringing them along. There seems to be a lot of disruptive forces and threats in the world today - but there has always been disruption and there will always be threats. We as a people have more knowledge and capacity that at any time in our history - could we screw it up? Of course! But I am confident we won't, that good leaders will cut through the noise and lead us to a bright future. It won't be linear, there will be miss-steps and side trips - but that is the way it has always been.”
“Optimism isn’t fostered by accident. Leaders are conscious about being optimistic and energetic in their role."
Kay Clancy, Transformation Specialist
“Optimism is not just a “doing”, at its core I believe that optimism is a “being”. Like a candle lights the path and provides hope and a way of seeing in the darkness, so optimism offers an anchor that the power to improve what is happening is ours and that joy can guide our outlook. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of “doing”. I often ask myself “Who am I being that is contributing to the reality I see around me?” Leaders who focus on their “being” with as much energy and enthusiasm as their “doing” will set an infectious stream of optimism running far and wide with an impact that is beyond measure.”
Doug Kimberley, Pumpa Manufacturing
“The Case for Optimism? At last I see most employer representatives organisations recognising the need to focus on leadership not just management. There is express focus on risk taking as well as risk management and there is a drive to recognise the need for and reality of innovation at the day to day level. Innovative thinking allows more innovation at all organization levels.”
Evelyn Moolenburgh, Leadership Expert
“Optimism is paramount. I think you just have to go for it if you have a business idea. There is so much support around these days whether it’s incubators or the internet which are full of advice or you can read books or get mentors. There’s every opportunity to start your own business and I think if you’re optimistic about the future and set good plans then you have every chance of being successful.”
“There is hope. My own view of leadership is that what separates leaders from managers is the focus on 'purpose': defining purpose for ourselves, for our organisations and for our community is the essence of what shapes the future. No-one leads for the past - they lead for the future. So the very nature of leadership is that it is something we can all contribute to according to our purpose. When each of us is asked to express our purpose it seems to me that this cannot be done without being optimistic. Even where the circumstances or events that we face are in themselves tragic, there is an emergence of ourselves as better able to learn from the experience to shape a better future.”
Professor Paul Gadek
“Leaders have a vision for the future and a conviction that it is achievable and will be good for those they lead. Optimism to me implies a hope rather than a pathway. But I do hope for the best, whatever that turns out to be.”
Tim Luckhurst, Principal of South College, Durham University and Associate Pro Vice Chancellor (Engagement). Former editor of The Scotsman.
“Optimism inspires and motivates. Successful leaders must be optimists, especially when facing adversity.”
Wayne Burns, Centre for Corporate Public Affairs
"Not everything is possible, though life and its endeavours are about identifying what is possible and bringing that to life. That's possible. And that's what drives leaders. And that's what makes me optimistic."
Christopher Swift, chairman and CEO of The Hartford.
"I find that optimism is an essential ingredient of leadership. Not blind optimism, but an optimism that conveys to others that if we identify the root cause of a problem, we can work together to solve it."
Diane G. Tillman, Living Values Author
“Optimistic leadership is very needed at this critical juncture in the world. While some governments and many NGOs are moving toward positive solutions to the environmental and the plethora of social challenges, other governments and radical groups are engaged in blatant injustice and violence. Optimistic leadership generates hope; it nourishes the belief that all will be well. This belief is important for emotional wellbeing; it fuels greater cooperation and harmony in the community and workplace with tangible benefits in productivity, health and happiness. But optimistic leadership must be paired with values to be sustainable. Optimistic leadership paired with guile and egocentric selfishness deceives over time, generating mistrust, cynicism, and hopelessness, fear or hate. Optimistic leadership paired with respect for others empowers. I feel we need leaders who deeply understand the importance of inclusion and equality. A visible commitment to the values of peace, respect and equality help ameliorate the feelings of exclusion and bitterness which fuel violence and unite us to work for the common good. Optimistic leadership based on respect for all creates hope, positive solutions, a sense of belonging, and humanizes us all.”
Dr Steve Weitzenkorn, Co-author, The Catalyst Effect
Great leaders, regardless of their role or title, invigorate with optimism to achieve extraordinary results. Optimistic leadership has the power to galvanize — to catalyze — and be a force for driving an organization to new heights, turning performance around, and rebuilding momentum.
Extensive research has shown that optimism generates purposeful energy, creative thinking, and a drive for results. It propels and creates a belief in great possibilities. Intel cofounder Robert Noyce said optimism is “an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places?” Invigorating with Optimism, one of the 12 competencies described in The Catalyst Effect, conveys a can-do spirit. Can’t-do advocates are quick to cite reasons why something cannot be accomplished and why efforts to try are a waste of time and energy. If naysayers had prevailed, people would have never landed on the moon; laparoscopic surgery that reduces body trauma, pain, scarring, and recovery time would not have been developed; and you wouldn’t have a smartphone in your pocket or bag. All of these, and far more, came about because optimists believed they were possible — which triggered high-energy, catalytic undertakings that brought them to fruition.
Central to Invigorating with Optimism is the strong and shared belief that a team or organization can rise to great heights, whether from great depths or the middle of the pack, and excel with its own winning formula.
"The world needs and is primed for optimistic leaders. They are the ones that start the fire, inspire others to follow them, dig deep within themselves and extract the best in those around them. They are the ones with the big dreams and the capacity to make them happen. But they often need help from other 'types' in order to fully complete their mission. In their enthusiasm for making a difference and getting things done they sometimes fail to recognise this. It is vital that an optimistic leader has an 'observer' close to them on their team and that they use that person as a trusted sounding board. That person is the typical INTP on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and they have the capability to challenge and 'check' any 'over-reaching' or unrealistic beliefs or desires on behalf of the optimistic leader. The 'observer' by nature is often quiet, perhaps aloof. That's because they are noticing what is happening around them and evaluating risk and reward. They can sometimes appear negative and may sometimes frustrate the optimistic leader, but the optimistic leader needs them. This is the Yin and Yang of life; the way things should be. The 'observer' often makes good decisions and are there for the optimistic leader when they 'jump' too readily. If the optimistic leader wanted to go skydiving, it would be the 'observer' that they would want with them to check their parachute."
Robert Hillard, Managing Partner, Deloitte Consulting
“There is a tendency to make the case for change based on the downside, whether it be trade, manufacturing, STEM capability, energy or the environment it is often easier to describe a dystopian future and challenge the status quo. In fact, when we look at the rate of change in Australia across almost every dimension it is greater than at any time in the working lives of anyone in business or government today. What’s more, many of the structural inefficiencies that held us back are gradually fading away. Business and government are partnering across industries and the federal/state divide in ways that were almost impossible just a few years ago: Transport infrastructure is being built; Advanced manufacturing is taking hold; and, New energy technologies have, arguably, gained critical mass. No one leader can take credit and it would be tempting to imagine what would be possible if there were such a person. Having said that, many individuals are playing their part across many sectors.”
Fi Bendall, Chief Executive Officer at Bendalls Group
“In an era where people’s mistrust of government and business is at all-time high. Where we as people simply don’t believe and at times don't believe in each other, optimism needs to thrive. But how? Humans need hope and hope needs humans. The most amazing stories of human kindness, and warmth still permeate this “mistrusting world” we live in. In a world crisis, everyday heroes rise to the top in their kindness to others. In terror on our streets, people rush to help people. On the street look around you for daily inspiration to be optimistic…only today I saw people on the street rushing to help an old lady with her groceries that had spilt all over the sidewalk in Manhattan. The human being still embodies hope and optimism to drive and change our world for better. The more technology speeds at us, the more we need to touch and feel human kindness. Kindness breeds optimism, and optimism breeds hope. We have to hold on to that as our pessimism and mistrust is a weakness, our optimism and belief is our true power and empowerment.”
Michelle Marks PhD, Founder of Psychological Fitness Training™
“I view optimism more as an attitude than an attribute, and one that's essential to have in the tool-box of effective leaders. By strategically using optimistic thinking to reframe negative events as learning opportunities rather than catastrophes, and to view setbacks as temporary challenges rather than permanent obstacles, we can remain focused on our most meaningful goals. And by consciously deciding to choose hope over doubt, we can navigate the sometimes-choppy waters of our lives with confidence and enthusiasm. As a practical person, and not an optimist by nature, I’ve learned that there’s a time for optimism, and that’s most of the time, but some situations benefit from a more objective lens. The ability to choose when to use that lens exemplifies the mental agility of the most psychologically fit among us – those with the potential to be dynamic and masterful leaders.”
John Addison, Success Magazine
"People are naturally drawn to leaders who see the world through a lens of optimism. Nobody wants to work for a manager who thinks the organization will fail. No one dreams of being mentored by a boss who doesn’t believe in his or her company’s ability to overcome hardships. People want to be led by those who see the world with hope, excitement and happiness."
Nathan O'Neill, CEO, Bendigo Stadium Limited
"The necessity of remaining relevant in business is determined by how leaders act in the moment.
"Demonstrating optimism in everyday life will significantly shape your mindset always to find a way, enable you to be agile in your decision making. It will instil confidence in others around you.
"I look for the character in our people during adversity, as their action will define them as an authentic leader."
“Pessimism disguised as constructive feedback is the easy thing to do. What’s more #courageous is building on ideas, making things better and empowering others. That comes from having an optimistic outlook to life, believing in the capacity for change and having the audacity to believe in what could be rather than being stuck in negativity. That’s what makes solid leadership.”
Jon Meacham on FDR in "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels"
"How did he do it? How did the man scorned in the beginning die a hero, bringing innumerable ordinary citizens to tears in the streets and on the farms of the country he loved? How did he salvage what seemed unsalvageable, rising to lead a nation through depression and world war? One answer—and there are more than a few; such is the complexity of history—lies in FDR’s sense of hope, a spirit of optimism forged in his own experience. For it is not too much to say that a man who had personally survived cataclysm and overcome paralysis was well equipped—perhaps uniquely so—to prevail over national cataclysm and political paralysis."
Daniel Goleman in "What makes a Leader?"
"People who are driven to achieve tend to be optimistic, even in the face of setbacks or failure. When people are upbeat, their “glow” is cast upon conversations and other social encounters. They are popular, and for good reason."
Bill Murphy Junior
"All else being equal, if you want to lead your business effectively, optimism, hope, and confidence should probably be right up front and accessible in your linguistic toolkit."
Nicholas Stone, Founder, Bluestone Lane
Never underestimate the power of optimism. My best piece of advice to leaders navigating this challenging time is that you’ve got to lead with optimism, positivity & hope.
We’ve long recognized a connection between optimism and successful leadership or, for that matter, a successful life. Martin Seligman, the founder of the Positive Psychology movement, found optimism central to those who could manifest their gifts either for personal gratification (i.e., a good life) or in service of something bigger (a meaningful life). In research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and colleagues into the high-performing flow state and the leadership qualities likely to engender it, positivity and self-transcendence emerge as key traits. Likewise optimism emerges as a key component to emotional intelligence, resilience and well-being, creative problem solving, leadership charisma and presence. Positive emotions are known to bring coherence to the vibrations of heart and head, strengthening the electromagnetic field we radiate, as well as strengthening our intentions. Optimism is central to the “can-do” attitude of a leader. As Winston Churchill put it, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
"Optimism is a key leadership trait for anyone leading teams. It can be especially important for anyone who leads an entrepreneurial venture where risk and uncertainty are common, and where an optimistic outlook for the future can help stay the course.
"But being optimistic doesn't mean being bullheaded and refusing to face facts. And it doesn't mean going around wearing the proverbial rose-coloured glasses. It's about being inclined to hope. It's leading teams by showing them that you have confidence in a better tomorrow no matter what false starts or setbacks the team may be facing today."
You may or may not be a leader within your organization, family, or even your friend circle, but you are the leader of your life. You are in charge of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You can model optimism, resiliency, and hope within your circle of influence. You can be a leader, and with self-awareness, regulation, positive psychological capital, you can create a more positive climate at home, within your organization, or in your community. Who knows it may even become contagious.
"I do believe optimism can play a very positive role (pun intended!) in leading people through challenging times. The ‘brand’ of optimism that I recommend is ‘realistic optimism.’ When leaders are realistically optimistic, they build trust. It’s important for employees to hear the truth without the sugar coating. I can hear the best leaders saying something like, “Hey, there are more tough times ahead. I don’t have all the answers, AND I know that, working together, we will make the best of this.”
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