All great leaders share one critical quality: infectious optimism

Optimistic Leadership: Unlocking the Power Within Teams
by Victor Perton

All great leaders share one critical quality: infectious optimism. However, authentic optimistic leadership isn't just about delivering inspiring speeches from a podium—it's about unlocking and nurturing the optimism within the team members. 

That's the insight and wisdom I shared as the final keynote speaker at the Rise Initiative Leadership Advance Conference yesterday, commencing the concluding session "Looking to the Future."

Understanding and Cultivating Optimism

To cultivate this kind of optimism, leaders first need to understand what makes their team members and stakeholders optimistic. This understanding becomes a powerful tool that guides how they inspire and lead their teams.

Try out my "What makes you Optimistic?" Survey - the instant feedback is a plus.

Worth Doing: Our 5-Minute Survey on "What makes you Optimistic?"

At the Centre for Optimism, we focus on self-leadership, self-empowered leadership, and infectious optimism. 

A favourite mantra among our supporters and workshop participants is, "The Leader looks like the person in My Mirror." This mantra reflects the personal nature of optimism and leadership; it starts with oneself and spreads to others around them. What about writing that on the mirror at work?

Optimism in Practice

Infectious optimism is recognised as a critical success trait in leadership by the world's top head-hunting firms. This trait extends across various professional fields—from sales, where optimistic salespeople achieve higher sales figures, to medicine, where optimistic doctors are more accurate in their diagnoses.

When recruiting, it is advantageous to seek out optimists. Although they may initially lack specific job skills, their enthusiasm and proactive nature enable them to learn quickly and perform excellently. During interviews, asking candidates about what makes them optimistic and how they spread this optimism to others can provide deep insights into their potential cultural and professional fit. It's the only way you'll find innovators - innovation is almost impossible for pessimists.

Local and Global Perspectives on Optimism

My research for the Australian Leadership Project has demonstrated that optimistic leaders are more effective locally and globally. This sentiment is echoed across various sectors and regions; whether it's Silicon Valley's thriving tech industry or Israel's innovative ecosystem, optimism is a pivotal element of success.

Fostering Optimism in Organisations

Encouraging open conversations about optimism and its sources within corporate and institutional settings can significantly enhance morale and efficiency. For example, a Singaporean businessman I advised found that shifting the focus of his sales team meetings (monthly) to expressions of optimism boosted morale and sustained it effectively. 

As I did at the conference, you are welcome to try out and share my "What is Your Optimism Superpower?" exercise. It's fun and people love engaging in board table or roundtable conversations on it. Take the survey here.

Something simple? Make sure you give a genuine smile and a joyful greeting to everyone you pass.

Read More: Smile Like an Optimist


Optimistic leadership is more than just having a positive outlook; it's about actively fostering an environment where optimism can flourish and drive success. By embedding this principle in their leadership style, leaders not only enhance their effectiveness but also contribute to the well-being and productivity of their organisations. As we navigate the complexities of modern life and work, the ability to unlock and spread optimism will continue to be a defining trait of great leaders.

Please Take Our Positive Leadership Survey




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