Leadership: Choose the Positive Pollyanna! #peopleskills

Leadership: New Insights on Optimism and Pollyanna


Leadership: Image is cracked egg still smiling.

Leadership: Choose the Positive Pollyanna Image by Kat via Flickr.

Over the years several leaders have told me that they wouldn’t promote someone who had a Pollyanna  attitude.  It was one of those leadership labels that spoke volumes. Their disdain was clear. They were describing optimism as unrealistic and naive.

Because leadership today focuses on positive thinking, I decided to watch the movie Pollyanna to see how this supposedly optimistic label earned such disdain.

I expected Pollyanna to be a foolish character that was out of touch with reality. I pictured being bored and reaching for the stop button. 

Instead I saw a passionate change agent who spoke up to people regardless of their age, position. and disposition.  Pollyanna was very much in touch with reality!  

When someone told a lie, she called them on it. She also knew when to be polite yet summoned the courage to assert the positive to ardent pessimists. She alone turned around negative Mrs. Snow who spent hours picking out a coffin despite her good health.  

Pollyanna minced no words after one of Mrs. Snow’s long complaints …

    “You could be glad you’re not dying. You could be helping others. Forget about dying and be glad you’re living.”

Pollyanna’s father had used this glad game approach to sustain his daughter during tough times. They were poor and life was difficult. His leadership molded her view of everyday life. Now as an orphan she displayed his leadership principles.

So why is the Pollyanna character so often maligned?  

Is it because …

  • Leaders are afraid that too much focus on the positive will lead to denial and failure?
  • Traditional leaders define leadership as finding all the threats? Is it that they see little value in highlighting the positive?
  • Pessimists crave the negative so much that they’re driven to twist every positive into a negative?

Leadership: Why We Need the Real Pollyannas

  • They live gratitude in their core. It sustains their will and prevents complacency.
  • They model resilience. It breeds a self-sustaining culture.
  • They are both empathetic AND forthright. It nourishes morale and productivity.
  • They are motivated and inspired. It inspires others.
  • They initiate change and innovation. It overcomes the comfort of complaining.

Shall we look for the positive? After all, “when you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you most surely will.” ~Abraham Lincoln

My advice to leaders is, see the reality and lead with can-do optimism.

Go ahead, promote employees that can be forthright and polite. Applaud the resilient employees who raise both concerns and solutions instead of getting stuck in complaints. Foster courage to question the status quo and the insight to clearly assess the risks.

    Increase productivity through shared optimism.
    Develop a culture of creative innovation through can-do commitment.
    Lead change in the face of many pessimists and change resisters.
    Hire and promote true Pollyannas. They are grateful and hardy not apathetic and disillusioned. They improvise and overcome to reach success. They are the resilient workforce you dream of. They live in service to others and to the positive result.

There is no need to choose between reality and optimism. Optimism sees both the current reality and future possibilities. It’s a marriage of success.

How do you develop your employees’ ability to lead with optimism?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Connect with me on Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I welcome interaction and am glad to share insights and tips on your people skills challenges!

Related Posts:
Leadership Optimism: Dreaming, Denial, or Discovery
Leadership People Skills: Achieve Vision Through Values vs Ultimatums
Leaders, 10 Essential Thoughts to Proficient People Skills

Grateful for image by Kat via Flickr Creative Commons License.

©2014 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

7 Responses to “Leadership: Choose the Positive Pollyanna! #peopleskills”

  1. Carl says:

    Hi Kate, it’s been a long time since my last viewing of Polyanna, but I definitely want optimistic people on my team. Being optimistic doesn’t mean you are blind to the negative possibilities that surround us – for me, being optimistic allows me to look at every situation, whether I perceive it as positive or negative and find opportunities for growth. I’m not sure if that qualifies me as a ‘Polyanna’? 🙂

    Best regards,

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Well Carl we can use any titles/names we like and in every case the optimistic realist brings home success!

      Many thanks for weighing in on this post.

      Best wishes,

  2. Kate Nasser says:

    Dear Chery,
    I very much agree that Pollyanna had an incredibly strong mind and strong will. So often optimists are seen as weak and yet they propel so many to success. They improve and overcome.

    Honored that you found this post so uplifting!

    Warmest wishes of thanks,

  3. Jeff Hale says:

    Thank you Kate, this is a much needed perspective. I do believe that a leader’s foundational responsibility is to define reality. Defining reality is the first step in leading forward positively. Consequently, I completely agree with your statement, “My advice to leaders is, see the reality and lead with can-do optimism.”

    Wishing you a joy-full 2014!


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Jeff! I continue to work with leaders to see both reality and the positive views — as coexisting. Many do.. and still many focus only on the threats and problems.

      Appreciate your comment here,

  4. Midge says:

    Pollyanna is a character we could all stand to emulate, even just a little, because she is a positive agent of positive change. She know’s exactly what life’s all about and she creates it.

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