Frequent readers of this blog will have noticed that I am regular reader of the FT Weekend pages. I particularly like the ‘Life & Arts’ section for its balance of opinion and reviews. However, one weekend last month I was depressed by two articles I read in quick succession. Shannon Vallor described life as an ageing roller coaster with failed brakes and ‘accelerating climate change, a deadly pandemic and unravelling global supply chains’. While on the facing page Nilanjana Roy wrote that the ‘past few decades have brought humankind and most other species on Earth to the brink of destruction’. I was depressed because I agree with their analysis and our leaders seem either unaware of the impending crash of the roller coaster or unable to construct a global strategy to avert the looming destruction. However, spiralling into negativity does not help because negativity tends to promote fight-or-flight survival mechanisms that can lead to narrow-mindedness, a lack of creativity and limiting one’s options to the tried and tested actions which are unlikely to avert destruction. Whereas a positive outlook broadens your repertoire of options and builds physical, social and psychological resources. Positive psychological capital, associated with hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism, leads to higher positive outcomes including commitment, successful outcomes, satisfaction and well-being. In the face of apparently insurmountable challenges it is difficult to remain positive whether you are leading a small team, a department, an organisation or a country; nevertheless it is important to remain positive because research shows that the ‘happier and smarter’ approach works better than the ‘sadder but wiser’ style of leadership. Of course, extreme positivity is usually delusional or irresponsible and can lead to complacency; so, you need to dodge that too.
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Nilanjana Roy, Lessons from 1971 for eco-activists today, in FT Weekend 9 October / 10 October 2021.
Shannon Vallor, Tech’s future shocks, in FT Weekend 9 October / 10 October 2021.
Youssef-Morgan CM, Luthans F. Positive leadership: Meaning and application across cultures. Organizational Dynamics 42:3:198–208, 2013