There are two classic observations about glasses of water – as the story goes, if a person has a negative attitude, the glass will be half empty with a clear risk of a water shortage. If, on the other hand, a person has a positive attitude, the glass will be half full of very delicious water with clear potential to hold even more. Great leaders have the ability to consistently appreciate the positive aspects of situations and see the future potential.
Some time ago, a new boss arrived to fill the chair in the big corner office with the window. Selected to lead the large, structured and mostly successful organization where I work, it wasn’t immediately clear if, or how, this new boss would affect workers’ lives. For weeks, rumors had circulated about the new leader being a “good guy.” So it was with cautious optimism that we waited for the first indications of how things were going to be different with the new leadership – and different it was.
“It is a very great blessing to work for a leader who has a positive attitude”
Even though our organization has more than 2,000 people, the new leader greeted people in every section within the first two days and seemed to genuinely appreciate the wonderful work they were doing. At meetings, it didn’t matter if the topic was informational or decisional, he was enthusiastically interested. He was genuinely delighted when he could add context to new data and create clarity – and we quickly grew to appreciate the additional productivity that resulted from that clarity. Often, his questions were more about teaching and establishing relationships than business. But the most noticeable characteristic was our new leader’s positive attitude.
Leaders with a “Half Full” View
It is a very great blessing to work for a leader who has a positive attitude – we’ve probably all experienced the opposite case where a leader only talks about problems to solve. On the other hand, a leader who has a positive attitude displays a practically inexhaustible but reasonable and logical optimism. That leader instinctively knows how to make people feel there’s always a great new way ahead and we’ll find it together. Leaders who start building their team by emphasizing strengths will harness much more positive, creative, and productive energy than leaders who focus on problems. All organizations are the same to that extent – if leaders start looking for problems they will find them and very quickly everyone will be mired in negativity.
If, however, a leader identifies the goodness in an organization and focuses on increasing that goodness, people will naturally feel more engaged and willing to invest more of themselves in the work of elevating the organization to a higher level of productivity and competitiveness. In a comfortable and appreciative environment, valuable dialog can occur that is more creative and transformational than merely solving problems. A shared optimistic vision for what is possible and the best ways to get there can be developed with a higher likelihood of consensus. With that consensus and people feeling they have participated in the co-development of their future comes a greater likelihood of success. Clearly, leaders who create a positive and appreciative environment will form positive relationships and increase the potential of their people and their organization to build a better future.
“make sure to start relationships at work by viewing the glass as half full”
So if you want to be the kind of leader who people remember for making a positive difference, make sure you start your relationships at work by viewing the glass as half full with great potential to hold even more.