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A Blog by Art Dykstra


From My Pad to Yours is about leadership and other topics, and is written by Art Dykstra, the CEO of Trinity Services, Inc.

The Effective Organizational Leader: Positive Attitude

by Art Dykstra | Apr 19, 2017

An extremely important element in the effective leadership of others is a positive attitude. Generally speaking, people tend to fall easily into the habit of looking for what’s wrong rather than what’s right. This naturally leads to a negativity that often undermines progress in organizations and on teams to say nothing of its effect in the personal lives of those who suffer from a negative perspective.

In reaction to this “disease model,” mental health professionals began to develop positive psychology, an effort spearheaded by Martin Seligman. Chris Peterson, a former professor at the University of Michigan, defined positive psychology as “the scientific study of what goes right in life.” Phrased another way, it is the study of what makes life worth living.

Of course, there are those who characterize a positive attitude as blind optimism. For instance, in 1927, Elbert Hubbard described a pessimist as a person who has been intimately acquainted with an optimist. Or you may have run across the definition of optimism in "The Devil’s Dictionary":

OPTIMISM: The doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof — an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.

The truth is that having a positive attitude does not mean that one adheres to happiology, because a truly positive person recognizes “the good, the bad and the ugly.” He does not, however, allow “the bad and the ugly” to be his focus. Ernie Banks, the greatest shortstop of the 20th century, was a perfect example. He remained irrepressibly optimistic though he played for the Cubs through 19 seasons of unsuccessful efforts to make it to the World Series. Known for comments like “Tomorrow will be even better than today,” Ernie always did his unselfish best. He exhorted his teammates to “play for the name on the front [of the shirt], not the name on the back.”

Someone might remark that we should always be optimistic. I would disagree with the assumption. There are certainly times in our lives when we shouldn’t be optimistic. Examples include times when you are crafting a budget, assessing the cost of car repairs or crossing a busy four-lane street!

Research in the 1990s indicates that individuals presented with different challenges who thought they could achieve them were optimistic. Those who thought they couldn’t were pessimists. Interestingly, their expectations became self-fulfilling much of the time.

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