There’s a lot of research these days about how important it is to your leadership success that you think and speak optimistically about your future and the future of your organisation.
But so many glass-half-empty leaders are unwittingly derailing their teams.
Richard E. Boyatzis (Professor of organisational behaviour, cognitive science and psychology) is an expert in the field of emotional intelligence, behavioural change and competence.
He asserts that you have two discrete options with regard to how you frame your thinking—and how you communicate.
The option you choose determines if you’ll feel optimistic about the future—and, importantly, whether you’ll have engaged, innovative team members.
Some people habitually frame their thinking and their communications by focusing on:
- What went wrong
- What could go wrong
- The outcomes they don’t want.
Boyatzis defines these thoughts as “Negative Emotional Attractors” (NEA).
People with a NEA tend to feel anxious and fearful as a consequence. Their focus is on surviving.
Others habitually frame their thinking and their communications by focusing on:
- What worked well
- The benefits that’ll likely show up
- The outcomes that they want.
Boyatzis defines these thoughts as “Positive Emotional Attractors” (PEA).
People with a PEA flourish. Their focus is on thriving.
The Impact of NEA and PEA on Leadership
When a leader’s in a NEA state they’ll:
- Look at what hasn’t worked before
- Focus on the problems
- Think about hassles and struggles.
They’ll use phrases like:
- “What worries me here is …”
- “I’m pretty sure the problems we had before will show up again”
- “This isn’t going to work because …”
But when a leader’s in a PEA State, they’ll:
- Focus on solutions and what can be done to resolve things
- Think creatively and look forward into the future
- Think strengths and possibilities.
They’ll use phrases like:
- “This opens up some exciting options”
- “I wonder what creative thing we could do to …”
- “Shall we agree on what ‘ideal’ looks like?”
A recent Forbes article put optimistic leaders at the 89th percentile of effectiveness—and pessimistic leaders at the 19th percentile. Now that’s an extremely strong correlation between a leader’s optimism (PEA) and their leadership effectiveness.
Your Next Step
Frankly, leaders who overdo a NEA mindset find it difficult to create an engaged, innovative team that achieves its goals. Research tells us that your leadership will be most effective when your PEA is two to five times that of your NEA.
Will you monitor your NEA and PEA and make sure the balance is helping you to be effective?
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About the Author:
For more than 25-years, Carolyn Stevens has helped leaders flourish and become more confident, more courageous and impressively influential (including those who’ve previously struggled to confront difficult situations, let alone persuasively deal with them).
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