There are many facets to great leadership: a clear vision, charisma to inspire others and the drive to make things happen. But there’s one thing that’s often overlooked – positivity. It’s a simple quality but it goes a very long way for personal motivation and when leading others.
Positivity starts from within, it’s about you and your own self-belief. As head of a team, you should be stepping up and taking charge, and if you project confidence and enthusiasm, it will be replicated in the performance of your team. Because, when all’s said and done, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
Of course, no one’s saying that being a positive, shining ray of light is always easy. You’ll inevitably face many challenges, so knowing how to keep your chin up and keep inspiring others is vital.
A positive attitude is contagious, and the way you act sets the tone for your team. If you show that you’re enthusiastic and really believe in yourself and what you’re doing, you’ll make others believe it too. This will make them happier, increase their sense of purpose and improve their effectiveness. When you’re talking positively about their work and upcoming projects, it will give them a confidence boost. If you’re miserable and pessimistic, this will seep through and lower morale.
There are certain limits to this. If things look bad and your organisation or team are going through difficult times – don’t lie to them. Positivity has to be genuine and can’t be patronising. Saying things are great when they’re clearly not, isn’t going to help anyone. However, in these cases it’s still good to show you have faith in their abilities, and to stand by them in difficult times. You may not know what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little faith that things will work out.
A leader that instils a sense of positivity in their people is one that can get the most out of them. People working for leaders who use authority and intimidation, tend to only do enough to not get told off or fired. When you make sure they enjoy what they do and have a real sense of pride and purpose, they’ll be happy working with you and will be willing to push harder and dig deeper when it’s required.
What do you believe in?
As Alexander Hamilton asks in the eponymous musical, “If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?”
The greatest leaders have something they genuinely believe in and work towards. Whether it’s a vision for their organisation, a set of guiding principles, their faith or a dream they want to fulfil. It’s something that leads their way and acts as the compass point when they aren’t sure what to do, ensuring they never lose their way.
Think about what it is that guides you – and, as a people leader, think about what you want for your team. Increasing annual profits is great, but what do you want for the people? What is it that gets you up in the morning?
It might be personal growth and development, to prove something to yourself (or someone else), to help others or any number of other possible reasons. Even when people say their only reason to work is to make money, there’s always more to it. They might ultimately be trying to improve their standard of living, support a family or simply saving up for a new TV or a holiday. Money is a means to an end, so really think about what you want.
Understanding your motivation will give you a deep and real sense of positivity in your work. You’ll know why you’re there, and even on the toughest days, you’ll be able to remember your purpose.
Believe in yourself
Self-belief is absolutely key for an effective leader. There’s a famous saying, attributed to Henry Ford: “Believe you can, believe you can’t, either way you’re right.” If you don’t believe you can succeed, you’ll create a scenario where you won’t.
In our articles, we often refer back to the Belief Cycle model, so you may already have heard of it. The model explains that your beliefs have a direct impact on your thoughts, feelings and ultimately your actions. Since your behaviours are powered by your initial beliefs, if you start out feeling positive about yourself, you’ll end up acting with confidence and strength – making success much more likely. The reverse is also true: if you approach a situation with a negative attitude, you’ll act weaker and much less effectively.
In essence, your emotions and expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you expect to succeed at something, or expect to struggle, you’ll act in a way which is more likely to make that outcome a reality.
People around you will notice this too. Whether you’re running a meeting, giving instructions, sharing feedback or presenting, other people will see your self-believe (or lack of it). You’re a leader, but ‘leadership’ is really just other people’s agreement to respect your authority. If you start doubting yourself, they’ll start doubting it too.
Push your limits
Genuine positivity and self-confidence grow with time and experience. If you’ve only recently been promoted to your first managerial position, you may feel anxious and uncertain about the role. Having responsibility and authority over others can be daunting for many people. Similarly, there are leaders who thrive in one-to-one situations or small groups, who fall apart when asked to present to a larger audience.
Being positive means having faith in yourself, even when you recognise your weaknesses or inexperience. Don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. There’s safety in what you’re good at, but the best leaders push beyond their limits because they believe they can.
And even if you don’t have that faith in yourself yet, a positive attitude works wonders. Being positive means knowing there’s a difference between being amazing and being good enough to do what you need to do. You don’t need to be the very greatest at everything, but you should be willing to push yourself enough to try.
Whether you’re a new manager or an experienced executive, positivity in yourself and being positive around others is an incredibly important element in motivating yourself and your people. Don’t underestimate its impact, and start showing the world how much you believe in yourself and your people. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.