Are Leaders Supposed to be Optimists, Realists, or Pessimists?

The answer is… Yes! The key is knowing when to be which.

In some circumstances a leader must be a grim-faced pessimist, while in others it requires being a cheery-faced optimist. How do you know which -ist to be? Here four easy guidelines to get you started!

Number 4: A leader must be a pessimist when…
… making financial forecasts in a challenging season.
Any leader who has led through tough times will tell you the first step to stop the bleeding is by taking a worst-case scenario approach to budgeting.

Number 3: A leader must be a realist when…
… developing the team.
Nothing will crush the spirit of a rising leader quite like giving them too much responsibility too soon. Effective leaders must be realistic when it comes to each team member’s potential, and design their development plan accordingly.

Number 2: A leader must be an idealist when…
… Casting vision.
Effective leaders embrace the ideals of their organization’s mission and vision and communicate them with authentic passion.

Number 1: A leader must be an optimist when
… building a healthy culture.
When the going gets tough, it’s the leader’s job to remind the team that, together, things are going to get better. The mission is worth pursuing, and success will come.

Effective leadership requires being a combination of pessimistic, realistic, idealistic, or optimistic. As a leader you can develop the skills to know when to be which!


“Often times success doesn’t come from strength, but from flexibility and adaptability”  — Debasish Mridha MD