Positive thinking, or maintaining a positive attitude even in difficult circumstances, has been shown to have various tangible personal benefits. From workplace productivity to stress reduction to higher brain functioning, working on seeing the good in people and situations is smart.
Negative thought patterns, on the other hand, are correlated with a number of less-than-helpful personal outcomes. From depression to relationship problems to increased stress responses from our bodies, holding onto negative thoughts is a harmful practice for each of us.
Leaders, though, have an additional aspect to consider when thinking about their thought patterns: how their thoughts are expressed and the impacts of those expressions on those in their care.
Having worked with hundreds of presidents, CEOs, chancellors, vice presidents, etc., I can confidently say that leaders who embrace more negative thought patterns undermine their own influence with those who report to them. For leaders with negative thought patterns, the following consequences typically are reported by others:
- Feeling undervalued – because negative thinking tends to identify all of the shortcomings or reasons why something won’t work as opposed to praising the good and achievements;
- Confusion over strategy – because negative thinking tends to identify all the potential pitfalls and paralyzes decision-making and action;
- Feeling discouraged for the institution – because negative thinking tends to identify all of the institution’s weaknesses and threats as opposed to the inspiring life-changing stories.
As leaders – and, yes, we all are leaders in some way – we owe it to ourselves personally, but also to our institutions professionally, to focus on the possible, the inspirational, the strengths, and the life-giving positives.
When we think that way consistently, we allow the possibility for advancement.