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December 2011 - Leaders Must Be Positive

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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Dr. John KlineLast month’s column contained a poem I wrote for 300 freshmen leadership students at Troy University—“Five P’s for Leaders”—Priority, Positivity, Preparation, Perseverance, and People. My July 2010 column was on Priority. This month’s column is on Positivity. During the next three months I will address the other P’s.

I have studied leaders for years; I can’t recall a negative leader who was successful for the long haul. I believe there are three reasons.

Leaders must understand that behind every obstacle lurks an opportunity. When leaders are tempted to be negative, they should reframe things. Instead of saying what they don’t want to do, they should say what they want or intend to do. Instead of saying they can’t do something, they should say what they choose to do. Instead of telling the obstacles they face, they should refocus on the opportunities.

Don’t be like the mid-level leader who rushed into his boss’s office shouting, “I have just encountered an insurmountable obstacle.”

His boss chastised him saying, “Don’t use the word obstacle; use the word opportunity instead. Now go back in an approach me using the word opportunity.

The leader came in again and said, “Boss I just encountered an insurmountable, er, uh, opportunity.” His words may have changed, but his attitude did not. Leaders must have a positive attitude.

Leaders must give positive encouragement to others. Without a positive attitude, leaders are unable to give the positive encouragement followers need to function successfully. See my March 2007 column on the importance of encouraging others. Leaders simply must be encouragers, and they can’t do it without positivity.

Leaders need to reduce their own stress and the stress of others. The evidence is clear. Positivity reduces stress; negativity increases it. Negative stress leads to failure, burnout, and often a downward spiral.

For these three reasons and many others, leaders must be positive.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

December 2011 - Leaders Must Be Positive
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