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Positivity and Realism in Leadership

October 6, 2017

Continuing our look at Travis Bradberry’s article, “6 Things Great Leaders Do Differently”, let’s examine number four on his list of qualities that strong leaders possess: “They stay positive, but remain realistic”.

Bradberry details two extremes to avoid: the overly pessimistic person who “throws his hands up” in the face of adversity, and the overly optimistic one who “sits back, saying that things will improve” on their own, as if by magic. By his definition, a great leader—a person who is both positive and realistic—“says, ‘We can do this!’” and charges forward.

To understand the distinction, let’s first consider what positivity means. At its most basic level, positivity is about attitude, a way of interpreting the world around you in a constructive light. But it’s not simply pretending everything is perfect or that everything that happens is all for the best, because that would be disingenuous. Positivity accepts a difficult situation and rises to meet it practically.

And realism? The easiest way to define it is comparing it to its counterpart, idealism. Idealism, as you know, aspires to the way things should be, while realism acknowledges the way things are. There’s room for both lines of thinking, but great leadership requires a strong dose of the honesty that realism provides because it shows respect to employees by not patronizing them.

What’s a good example of positivity and realism coming together for good leadership? Let’s take a salesperson who’s had disappointing sales numbers. Good leadership would be to engage with the employee, to realistically acknowledge the low sales and to positively suggest how the employee might improve his technique.

What’s not helpful? Too much optimism or pessimism, which frames the problem as something that will either take care of itself or can’t be corrected, as something outside the employee’s grasp. A great leader doesn’t say, “In a perfect world…” because we don’t live in a perfect world—just this one. And this world requires action to accomplish anything.

As we mentioned in the last post, there are many books about management and effective leadership, but nothing beats a one-on-one class with The Brandt Group. Consider reaching out to us today to learn more about the courses we provide.

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