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12 definitive traits of a leader: Part 6-Optimism

By Jeff Custer | Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Imagine there’s a glass of water on the table in front of you that’s 50% full. And I’ll ask you the classic question for this scenario: is the glass half full or half empty? Depending on your answer, it’s a rudimentary way to infer whether you tend to be an optimist or a pessimist.

If someone’s feeling particularly clever, they may say the glass—though only half full of water—is in reality full of half water and half air. But let’s not get too sidetracked with the philosophical musings that answer starts to bring up.

But how does this all connect to leadership? Does it really matter if a leader is optimistic of pessimistic? Yes—I think it does! Simply put, leaders who’re optimistic have an expectation of positive outcomes.

Leaders are best served when they have an optimistic outlook. Here are the top reasons:

  • Optimistic leaders are better problem solvers. They make better decisions and are more creative in finding solutions because their minds are open to more options and to doing things in new ways. Their questions begin with “How can we…” Pessimists on the other hand are narrowly focused. Their statements begin with “It won’t work because…

  • Optimistic leaders communicate more effectively. They focus on the positives in situations while engaging and encouraging others with their outlook. They don’t fall into the trap of having rose colored glasses and balance their optimism with reality.

  • Optimistic leaders see past adversity. We all know bad things happen. Leaders acknowledge this fact but are able to quickly move past it and motivate others as well.

If you’re naturally a glass half empty person, can you learn to become more optimistic? And if you’re naturally a glass half full person, can you nurture that instinct? Let’s go over some action items you can use:

  • Practice looking at issues with a pro versus con mentality. When you’re faced with an issue or choice make a list! In many situations, the answer isn’t black and white—it’s grey. Using this method helps you find clarity in the grey.

  • Surround yourself with like-minded people. If everyone around you is a pessimist, it’s likely that that attitude will rub off on you.

  • Be thankful. Believe it or not you can practice this. Be intentional in finding things to be thankful for. Even in difficult situations, figure out what you can be thankful for. This helps you seek the positives in every situation.

  • Focus on the things you can control and influence. If you spend your time and energy focused on things out of your control you’ll only become increasingly frustrated. And it won’t change. What you do control is how you react.

People will want to be around you when you’re optimistic. Your optimism and the benefits that come with it will rub off on your team and they’ll become more optimistic. A team filled with optimists will far outperform a team of pessimists.

You can improve your level of optimism if you choose to. And when you do, you will be a better leader.

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Are you struggling to improve your effectiveness as a leader? Email me at for a free consultation.

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Jeff Custer is a long-time leader at both private and Fortune 500 companies where he has developed and led both high performance individuals and teams. He is passionate about developing leaders and building high impact teams. Jeff resides in the United States.

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