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September 6, 2013
There is an abundance of research that indicates optimists experience better health, reduced stress and are more successful in life. Optimists tend to live longer, make more money and have better marriages. Recently we looked at 200 managers who were assessed on their level of optimism. What we found was an extremely strong correlation between a leader’s perceived optimism and their effectiveness as a leader. The most pessimistic leaders were rated at the 19th percentile while the most optimistic leaders were rated at the 89th percentile… continued on Forbes.com.
August 22, 2013
The Big Lesson About Leadership From Steve Jobsby Jack Zenger
A great deal has been written about the co-founder of Apple Computer in the aftermath of his passing. Colorful stories abound about his brilliance at developing products that millions of people have fallen in love with. This week a feature film was released about his life. A vibrant life. At the same time, the film documents Steve Jobs’ darker side as well. Is there a valuable lesson we can extract from his storied career?…. continued on Forbes.com.
August 1, 2013
3 Reasons To Practice Optimistic Leadershipby Bob Sherwin
I’m really lucky. In looking back at my career, I can’t recall ever having a boss who was a negative pessimist. Many of you are not so lucky. It’s not hard to argue that having a negative, pessimistic leader is a bad spot in which to find yourself. There are numerous explanations why most people don’t like working with pessimists generally, and certainly don’t like being led by them. Here are three reasons why we instead naturally seek leaders who are optimists.
1. Optimists are problem solvers who try to improve the situations they’re in. We want leaders who’ll face obstacles head on, analyze them and formulate solutions, and then lead us around them. Researchers Michael Scheier and Charles Carver looked at the implications of optimism on outcomes in their groundbreaking 1985 study, “Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies”. When interviewed in a 2012 Hans Villarica’s article in The Atlantic Home, Scheier said of their research results: “We know why optimists do better than pessimists. The answer lies in the differences between the coping strategies they use. Optimists are not simply being Pollyannas; they’re problem solvers who try to improve the situation . . . Pessimists, on the other hand, tend to deny, avoid, and distort the problems they confront, and dwell on their negative feelings. It’s easy to see now why pessimists don’t do so well compared to optimists.”
2. Optimists are more resilient in the face of failures and setbacks. Failures are a part of life and the workplace. A common business adage goes something along the lines of, “if you’re never failing, you’re not taking enough initiative.” But when those failures do come, we want leaders who can adapt to setbacks, get the team moving forward again, and get us back on track. Nobel prize winning economist, Daniel Kahneman, discussed his research of optimists and their ability to lead others in the face of setbacks in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow. In it he said it’s the resilience of optimists in the face of failure, their ability to adapt and rebound, that sets them apart from everybody else. Interestingly, he also points out that their optimism can sometimes lead them to underestimate dangers and take more risks than others. But in spite of that, Kahneman’s conclusion is that the benefits of having optimistic leaders outweigh their costs: “Their confidence in their future success sustains a positive mood that helps them obtain resources from others, raise the morale of their employees, and enhance their prospects of prevailing. When action is needed, optimism, even of the mildly delusional variety, may be a good thing.”
3. Leaders’ behaviors are infectious, and we’d rather our leaders spread optimism. We know that the behaviors of leaders and the outlooks they have will impact everyone around them, especially their followers. Early in my career I had a boss who was optimistic and generous in nature but, depending on the day, could come in cantankerous and angry. We learned to be on the lookout each morning when he entered the office, and word quickly spread as to his mood. Whatever it was that day – positive or negative – it’s impact was infectious. It immediately suppressed or lifted the atmosphere across the entire office.
Researchers from the University of California at San Diego and Harvard University published an interesting study on this topic of “emotional contagion” in 2008. The research had a simple conclusion: people who are surrounded by those who are happy will in all likelihood become happier themselves. Not only that, but the clustering effect of happy and unhappy people they observed was not a result of people simply electing to hang out with others having a similar emotional outlook. In fact, they found that it occurred as the result of the spreading of the happiness emotion. The study found that if Person A’s friend – Person B – lives within a mile and Person B becomes happy, it increases the probability of Person A becoming happy by 25%. Just as fascinating was their research finding that the impact extended up to 3 degrees of separation, meaning all the way to the friends of one’s friend’s friends. That’s quite a reach, for sure.
So, what does this emotional contagion research mean for leaders? It’s likely that the impact of a leader’s outlook, whether positive or negative, optimistic or pessimistic, is going to spread just as it did in the case of my optimistic, generous, but sometimes cantankerous former boss.
I’ll close by leaving you with three questions to consider relative to your own level of leadership optimism. The first question is, “where do others see me on the ‘outlook’ spectrum, am I perceived as a terribly negative pessimist on one end, a wildly positive optimist on the other, or somewhere in between?” Second, “wherever it is others see me on that spectrum, what are the consequences of my expressing that kind of an outlook?” And finally, “should I be doing something about it?”
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchill
COO, Zenger Folkman
July 25, 2013
Exceptional Leaders: Are They The Friend Or The Enemy?by Joe Folkman
In politics, business, religion, community, or in any other area of life leaders have struggled with the balance of being feared and loved. Do leaders who shut off their emotions and push others to get the work done have better results? Or are the inspiring, likable leaders who are very concerned with every individual get more from their “loyal subjects”? Which is more important for a leader?… continued on Forbes.com.
July 16, 2013
Every leader I know is extremely busy getting their job done. At the same time, they also realize that investing effort in their own leadership development is good. The problem is that when faced with a choice, work seems to always trump personal development. Everyone runs fast and hard, and personal development is put off as executives wait and hope for a break in the schedule… continued on Forbes.com.
July 10, 2013
Three Myths About Your Strengthsby zengerfolkman
One of the most dramatic changes in leadership development in the last decade has been the shift in focus from correcting weaknesses to identifying and expanding on strengths. As this movement continues to catch hold, three myths have emerged that deserve to be dispelled.
Myth #1: Focusing on strengths is the latest fad from impractical social scientists.While it’s true that prominent practitioners of leadership development have only recently adopted a focus on strengths as an accepted practice, the idea is far from new… continued on Harvard Business Review.
June 20, 2013
What Inspiring Leaders Doby zengerfolkman
What do top executives want from their leaders? IBM recently asked this question of 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries. The three leadership traits that most mattered were the ability to focus intensely on customer needs, the ability to collaborate with colleagues — and the ability to inspire.
Our own extensive 360° feedback data, which we’ve gathered from just under 50,000 leaders who have been assessed by approximately a half-million colleagues, strongly confirms the importance of inspiring leadership. Of the 16 leadership competencies we most frequently measure, it is clearly the one that stands out…continued on Harvard Business Review.
June 15, 2013
There is a secret to becoming a more likable leader. It doesn’t have to do with how tall and charming you are, or how often you give employees a raise. In fact, we have evidence that the majority of the behaviors displayed by the most likable leaders have to do with the way they interact with employees on a day-to-day basis. But first, does being liked by your employees even matter?…. continued on Forbes.com.
June 10, 2013
Did I Offend You? The Science Behind Being Politeby Joe Folkman
A short time ago my daughter came to observe me facilitating a workshop for a group of executives. At the time she was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Music Dance Theater. During the workshop I told a story of an innovative mayor who hires a bunch of actors to help him solve the foot traffic problems he has in his city. I then turned to my daughter and announced, “Don’t worry, there will always be jobs somewhere for starving actors.” Given my daughter’s current occupation, I thought it would be a funny remark. But as the room filled with laughter, I saw her horrified face. Afterwards she said, “I can’t believe you said that in front of all those people. That was so inconsiderate.”
I’m sure everyone has experienced a time in the workplace (or life) where they have unknowingly offended a colleague by saying or doing the wrong thing…continued on Forbes.com.
May 29, 2013
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Some might think that developing leaders is a nice and noble venture for highly successful large corporations. One Silicon Valley software security firm has a different view. It sees it as making their corporation transformation possible.
Bettina Koblick, Chief HR Officer puts it this way. “The radical transformation that our CEO is requiring of Symantec in very short order could not happen if we hadn’t been so focused on developing leaders at all levels in recent years.”