The title of this article is pretty declarative, don’t you think? Actually it isn’t completely true. You don’t have to have a positive attitude to have a leadership role, and you don’t even have to have it to lead. But you definitely must have a positive attitude if you want to lead successfully for an extended period of time.

A specific description of what I mean when I say “positive attitude” will be saved for another day (and another article). For our purposes today, let’s define positive attitude as an expectancy that good things will generally happen, (and that even when they don’t there is likely good that will be found in the challenges) and a healthy optimism for the future for your company, team, yourself and life in general.

It is important to note what I’m not saying here as well — I’m not saying a positive attitude requires you to be a pom-pom toting cheerleader or an always smiling Pollyanna who ignores challenges and thinks that attitude alone will carry the day. It is something deeper and can be shown in your actions in a personal way; it doesn’t require you to live a stereotype (which is good, because that is too hard to do and won’t work anyway).

With that starting point, here are three major reasons having a positive attitude is important for you as a leader.

You are in the energy business

I have Clients in both the electric utility and the petroleum businesses. They would justifiably say they are in the energy business. As a leader, whatever industry you are in, you, too, are in the energy business. Remember that whatever energy you bring to your work will be noticed and amplified. Your personal attitude is a huge part of the energy you inject into your team and organization. If you aren’t injecting positive, supportive and encouraging thoughts and actions into the workplace, it is far less likely that others will either. You can’t rely on someone else to do this for you—you are a leader.

Positive attracts

I often say in workshops that “if you think you are leading, but no one is following, you are just taking a walk.” If you want to or need to lead, you need to have others choose to follow. Think about the people that you most want to be around, those whom you are attracted to. Are those people more positive or negative? Do you want to choose to spend time with people who think the future looks dim or bright? Would you rather be around people who encourage and are proactive, or those who focus on the negative and who think about the future with a “gloom and doom” approach?

Positive attitude and energy are attractive. The best leaders know this and that is a major reason they lead successfully.

Positive creates productivity

Are you more productive in a negative or a positive environment? In which atmosphere are you likely to be more creative, engaged and get more done?  If you are looking for a numbers driven, bottom line reason why a positive attitude matters in your organization, look no further than productivity.  People will get more done in a positive environment.

If you are wondering if it is possible for one person to change the attitude or environment in an organization, and therefore have the impact I’ve described, remember this: Enthusiasm is contagious, and someone must inject that energy into a group, team or organization in order for it to grow. Positive energy doesn’t happen automatically, someone must start. As in many other ways, leaders must go first.

You must go first.

If you want to be a more successful leader and have a bigger impact on those you lead and serve, focus on your attitude and know that as you change your thinking and your attitude, your actions will start to change your work, your team and your world.

photo credit seanbjack
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  1. Great post, Kevin! The leader needs to have an optimistic and affirming outlook to be a motivating force within the organisation. Being positive means having a strong commitment to vision and goals. It also about persevering in the face of any obstacles encountered.

    I think that it is also about bring ready to listen to the doubts and suggestions of others and being willing to endorse a shift in direction when such a shift is warranted. After all, a leader cannot possibly know everything and other people can exhibit specific leadership talents too. Being comfortable, and not feeling threatened by the capacity of others to lead in their own way, is another important part of being positive.

    Thanks for the important reminder.

  2. Great article. Agree with your comments, if the leader is not positive, then the staff will not be positive and your bottom line will not be positive!!!

    As W. Clement Stone said,
    “There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative. “

  3. Kevin, excellent insight. A positive attitude leads to positive activity. Especially for leaders, it is important to have a positive mindset. People will emulate their leaders. If leaders expect positive outcomes and behave in such a way that reflects those beliefs, followers will follow suit. I agree, you don’t have to have a positive attitude to lead. But you do if you want to lead in a positive direction. There is nothing that inhibits productivity more than cynicism. If leaders want to run their companies to the ground, they should lead cynically. Otherwise, positive attitude IS a must!

  4. Kevin,

    I know how much my energy effects everything around me and yet I had not thought about being in the energy business. What a great analagy.

    I am president of the Board of condo complex I live in. One of our members had such negative energy, she created tension in the room the moment she arrived. She just resigned, and although we’ve not had a meeting since, I can feel the change in energy already.


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