Tuesday, April 7, 2009

10 Strategies for Building Leadership Optimism

When I’m working with leaders to identify their most critical development needs, either for themselves, or for their direct reports, sometimes issues like “lack of confidence”, “low self esteem”, or “too pessimistic” (“she’s such a “Debbie downer…”) become a part of the discussion.

If these were just trivial personality quirks, we could easily dismiss them. But in the context of these discussions, they’re not. There are seen as root causes or either poor performance or issues that are holding someone back from being considered for promotion.

I don’t have a clinical background, so I find myself ill-equipped to make developmental suggestions. Some would categorize these sort of things as “Emotional Intelligence”, and I’ll admit, I’m no expert in this area either.

Fortunately, Martyn Newman is. Martyn’s a PhD consulting psychologist with an international reputation as an expert in emotional intelligence and leadership. He’s written a book called “Emotional Capitalists; The New Leaders”.

The book builds on Daniel Goleman’s work, and focuses more on how to develop EQ, vs. describing what it is and why it’s important.

Here’s an an example, a checklist from his chapter on how to develop optimism as a leader (a little something we could all use more of these days):

1. Look for the benefit in every situation, especially when you experience setbacks.

2. Seek the valuable lesson in every problem or difficulty – remember there are no mistakes, only lessons.

3. Focus on the task to be accomplished rather than your negative emotions, such as disappointment or fear, and see the possibilities within the task.

4. View success and happiness as your normal state and see negative events as temporary glitches on the path to your inevitable success.

5. Don’t take setbacks personally; take responsibility but recognize the influence of external factors on the situation.

6. Choose to put a positive spin on it, whatever it is.

7. View every experience as a positive opportunity for growth and self-mastery.

8. Decatastrophise and ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen, and can I live with it?” Then focus on doing everything you can to minimize the fallout.

9. Depersonalize and redefine situations in terms of their external causes.

10. Dispute negative pervasive thoughts by identifying your irrational thinking and replace it with more reasonable or rational thinking.

Other EQ skills covered in the book are self-reliance, assertiveness, self-actualization, self-confidence, relationship skills, and empathy.

When it comes to leadership development and success, the “soft” stuff is usually the root cause of the “hard” stuff. This book gives you a way to develop that soft stuff called EQ.

Note: If you’d like a complimentary code so that you can take the Emotional Capital Inventory and get a free Summary Report of your scores on optimism and the 9 other EQ Leadership skills, just go to Martyn’s site at http://www.emotionalcapitalists.com/, drop him a note requesting a code and he’ll send you one on my behalf.


BomiM said...

Hi Dan,


I've sent a note to request a code on your behalf to be able to take the Emotional Capital Inventory and get a Summary Report of my scores on optimism and the 9 other EQ Leadership skills.

It would certainly be interesting to evaluate my Emotional Capital Inventory and help me identify as well as describe my specific strengths and development opportunities to work on.

And, a big THANK YOU to Martin in advance, too. :-)


Hayli @ Transition Concierge said...

Fascinating look at one of the EQ skills. I never really considered everything that comprises the EQ. I think we can all agree optimism is beneficial in a leader, but I would almost place more value on other EQ skills, namely empathy.

Dan McCarthy said...

Bomi -
A belated "you're welcome!". Please let us know what you though of the assessment.
Hayli -
Thanks, agree. It's one element, I would not put it in the top 5.

BomiM said...

Thanks, Dan. I'm in the midst of some major tansition issues ... therefore the silence. The Emotional Capital Inventory certainly is very good at helping me identify and describe my specific strengths but more importantly it identified correctly my opportunity for development that I need to work on.