As a leader, which cluster do you most closely identify with:

Some leaders exhibit much more power than others who are at the same level. They get stuff done where others have failed. They move new initiatives ahead — while others complain about the bureaucracy that makes progress impossible. People, often including some who are more senior, go to leaders for advice. Their input is valued. Their perspective admired. These are the ones who create success. In doing so, they become more successful themselves.
On the other hand, some leaders seem powerless — regardless of the level they’re at. Even when they’re at the highest levels, they fail to recognize just how much power they have and how great an impact they can make. These are the leaders who can, and will, tell you all the reasons why something is doomed or can’t be done. They usually associate with like-minded negative Nellies. Together they reinforce their own perspectives and justify their lack of success.

If you chose the first group, good for you! If you chose the second group, I’m surprised! It’s very rare that powerless individuals see themselves in that light. It means you are more insightful than you appear, may be able to change, and probably want to. Fortunately it’s never too late to change.

Would you like to make change — regardless of the odds? Here’s what I’ve witnessed about mind-set. Based on travels across the world, I believe it has universal application:

Really great leaders, at all levels and regardless of the organization, optimize their roles. They fix things and build new strengths, while other leaders, often envious, complain that they cannot make the impact they want.

The finest leaders realize that their thoughts and actions can change entire organizations despite the failure of others before them. Using history as a guide, take, for example, India’s political and spiritual leader Gandhi. He was a guy who was able to turn the tide of an entire and floundering country. His belief was “A man is but the product of his thoughts — what he thinks, he becomes.” He never allowed the beliefs of the majority to turn him away from doing what he thought was right.

I am convinced that the most effective leaders are usually more optimistic. These individuals have a tendency to see a silver lining in every cloud. Where some see only bad news, they find small “wins” and use them to create broader success across the organization.

Optimism can breed success across departmental lines. It’s contagious. That’s because people want to believe that things can get better. On the other hand, negativity increases the likelihood for bad performance. But, that said, a bright outlook by itself isn’t all that’s required for success. It needs to be supported with a solid plan. And then tracked closely.

Optimism + Plan + Tracking = Success

Gandhi had — and showed — optimism to all those around him. He believed that his goal of an independent and democratic country was achievable. Like all leaders find out, he soon saw that enthusiasm is contagious.

More importantly, he recognized that he needed to help others to see the “how” and “why.” He shared his plan. Anyone and everyone could see that this “impossible” goal might actually happen. He made certain that everyone in his country and across the world could see that change was occurring, bit by bit. In doing so, he gained new support, harnessing more collective power. Their support helped the plan — and the ultimate achievement — to materialize.

You can become more powerful, more successful, more optimistic. It starts with recognizing it’s possible.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts — what he thinks, he becomes..” — Gandhi