Do you have to be an optimist to be a leader?
In a video interview with TheRoot.com, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice offers an interesting take on leadership. The video clip is about five minutes long and worth watching in full, but here are a couple quotes that I liked:
- "The best leaders are people who have that vision that pushes people to think about what's possible but shows them a realistic way to get there."
- "We sometimes decry vision and we talk about people being too idealistic, but if you are not an idealist—if you're not an optimist—then you can't lead."
I had never thought of leadership in these terms before, specifically that a leader has to be an optimist, but after some thought I've decided I agree. I like that perspective on leadership and that concept of an optimist. An optimist has a positive outlook not because she has blind faith in positive outcomes but because she has a realistic vision for how to make those positive outcomes happen.
This advice is good for association leaders, who have to inspire and guide such a diverse group of followers: board, staff, committee volunteers, chapter leaders, rank-and-file members, and so on. Being able to inspire each of those groups and show them how they each contribute to fulfilling your association's goals and strategy is no easy task.
The question in the title of this post may be a silly one, because who really wants to follow a pessimist? But I'm curious for your thoughts. Are the best leaders you know consistently optimists, as well?