How to Become a Positive Leader

A Gallup study estimates that negativity costs the economy $250 to 300 billion a year, thanks to its impact on employee morale, performance and productivity


If you own a teacher store, you have every right to be a little negative at the moment. More and more people are shopping online, educators are selling their lesson plans on the internet, and teachers are turning to Pinterest for good ideas instead of to you. And that’s just a few of the issues you’re facing.

This isn’t the first time that the world, the industry and your market have tested you. Hasn’t it always been challenging to work toward your vision; to create a positive future for you and your employees? You’ll move on from these issues stronger and better, just like you have in the past. But in the face of these new challenges, your attitude will make all the difference to your success.

Pessimists don’t change the world

“Throughout history, we’ve seen the optimists, the believers, the dreamers, the doers, and the positive leaders change the world,” says Jon Gordon, author of the new book The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World. “The good news is, even if you’re the biggest pessimist you know, you can learn to change your outlook. It will make you a much stronger leader.”

Studies conducted by author, psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman demonstrate that positive teams perform at higher levels than negative teams. University professors Wayne Baker and Robert Cross discovered, “the more you energize people in your workplace, the higher your work performance.” According to their landmark analysis released in 2003, it occurs because people want to be around you. You attract talent, and people are more likely to devote their discretionary time to your projects. They’ll offer new ideas, information and opportunities to you before they offer it to others.

The opposite is also true. If you de-energize others, they won’t go out of their way to work with you or help you.

“Optimism about your business starts with you,” says Gordon. “If you don’t have it, you can’t share it.

“I think of myself as a pessimistic optimist,” he continues. “I will always gravitate, naturally, toward the negative. Pessimism is really just a state of mind. It’s not permanent. You can change it.”

Here are seven tips from Gordon that will help negative leaders become more positive.

Stop complaining and blaming

If you’re complaining, you’re not leading. Leaders don’t complain. They focus on solutions. They identify problems and look to solve them in order to create a better future for all. Positive leaders don’t attack people. They attack problems.

Don’t focus on where you are; focus on where you’re going. Lead your employees with optimism and vision. Regardless of the circumstances, keep pointing others toward a positive future.

Lead with love instead of fear

Fear is draining; love is sustaining. Fear divides; love unites. Gordon explains that the key to leading without fear is to provide both love and accountability.

“If your team knows you love them, they will allow you to challenge them. But love must come first. Former CEO Alan Mulally turned around Ford with both love and accountability. He said you have to ‘love ‘em up,’ and you have to hold them accountable to the process, principles, and plan.

Be demanding without being demeaning

Positive leaders are not Pollyanna-positive. They care about results and pursue excellence. Positive leaders believe in a brighter future, so they take the necessary actions to create it. “They lift others up in order to accomplish their goals, rather than tear them down. They don’t talk at you – they walk and run with you.”

Connect one-on-one

“The greatest leaders connect with those they lead,” says Gordon. “Dave Roberts, manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is a great example. One day I witnessed a player walk in and say hello. Dave got up and gave the player a big bear hug for about five seconds; the kind of hug a dad would give to his son. I told Dave how great it was, and he said, ‘I do it each day, and he often stops by to talk about life and challenges, and whatever is on his mind.’

“A few weeks later, while the Dodgers were playing the Nationals in the postseason, I watched in amazement as the very same player hit homeruns in games 4 and 5 to help the Dodgers advance,” adds Gordon. “It was as if I had a front-row seat to see what happens when a coach makes the time to pour love and support into one of his players.”

Create positive change from the inside out

Many leaders believe they are victims of circumstance, but positive leaders believe they can influence events and outcomes by the way they think and act.

Coach Donna Orender, who served as commissioner of the WNBA, saw a lot of negativity in the corporate office. There was a feeling that no one cared about women’s basketball, as well as a lack of belief in the success of the organization. But Orender saw passion and optimism in the coaches and players, and she began building an optimistic belief system that inspired her colleagues. By focusing on one success at a time, she changed the organization from the inside out.

“I saw the same optimistic attitude and leadership in Silicon Valley during the Great Recession,” says Gordon. “While the rest of the country was going through the downturn, the people who lead and work for Silicon Valley companies refused to participate in the recession. They were too busy trying to change the world. They were surrounded by a bubble of optimism.”

Encourage instead of discourage

Positive leaders are also positive communicators. They make people around them feel better; feel encouraged instead of hopeless or discouraged. They also spread positive gossip, listen to and welcome new ideas, and give genuine smiles when they speak. Finally, they are great encouragers who uplift the people around them and instill the belief that success is possible.

“There is power associated with positive leadership,” concludes Gordon. “Even if you naturally lean toward a negative outlook, making a few changes can inspire momentous change in your own career success as well as in the success of your staff. When you lead with optimism and share positive energy with others, you will transform the negativity that too often sabotages businesses. Your new positive attitude will allow you to overcome the negativity, face the adversity, and keep moving forward. The best is yet to come.”

Jon Gordon’s best-selling books and talks have inspired readers and audiences around the world. His principles have been put to the test by numerous NFL, NBA and MLB coaches and teams, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, hospitals and nonprofits. He and his tips have been featured on “Today,” CNN, CNBC, The Golf Channel, “Fox and Friends” and in numerous magazines and newspapers. Jon and his consulting company are passionate about developing positive leaders, organizations, and teams. For more information, visit

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