There are 2 primary emotions that inspire people to follow a leader: Fear and Love. Fear will usually yield immediate results, but the results are often short-lived. Leadership is most effective when driven by love and genuine concern for those being led.
Leadership by fear often comes from a place of insecurity on the part of the leader. Leadership by love comes from a leader who is secure in who they are, what they stand for and the team they have assembled to work alongside them.
Fear is a negative emotion and love is positive. Positive leadership is more than just energy and enthusiasm. Positive leadership requires vision, work and confidence that things will work out in spite of inevitable setbacks. So, how do you become a positive leader and stay positive in the face of everyday challenges?
Focus on Yourself
This may sound counterintuitive, but positive leadership requires self-assurance and moral grounding. This comes from taking the time to build yourself on a firm foundation. One of Stephen R Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “Sharpen the Saw”. This refers directly to time spent improving yourself, and putting yourself in a position to help others succeed.
When trying to save someone from drowning, or from falling off a cliff, you yourself must first be in a position to pull the other person to safety. The same goes for leadership. Invest time in yourself so that you lead with love and not fear or insecurity about yourself.
Have a Vision
Positive leaders have a clear vision of what they expect their team to accomplish. A clear vision comes from study and research as well as experience and instinct. The hardest part about a leader’s vision is getting others to buy in. The more passion and enthusiasm you give to your vision, the more others will start to see how firmly you believe in the vision and they will want to follow.
It is said that the quickest way to quit smoking is to stop putting cigarettes in your mouth. This may sound insensitive to anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking, but in theory it is 100% true that to stop smoking you have to stop putting cigarettes in your mouth at some point.
The same is true for becoming a positive leader. If you want to be more positive and you want to affect others in a positive manner, you have to eradicate negative thought. The quickest way to eradicate negative thought is to stop complaining. Period.
Complaints are like cancer. One negative thought, expressed, can spread like wildfire to the point where nobody wants to work because “it’s not going to work out anyway”. The next time you think about complaining, don’t. The next time you hear someone else complaining, resist the urge to commiserate with the complainer. Instead meet them with love and understanding, but then redirect them to a more productive train of thought.
As a leader, you have to be ready for anything. Even the best laid plans rarely go exactly as expected. Those who look to you for leadership will mimic your flexibility (or rigidity). If you want to be a positive leader, be flexible, especially when things go horribly wrong. At the end of the day, you need to have faith that things will work out, even if they look bleak in the present. The moment you give up hope and throw in the towel, everyone on your team will likely do the same.