Achieving Business Success

By Robert L. Bailey

Great leaders bring life and vitality to a business. Topping the list of the many leadership characteristics of great leaders is they're upbeat! Positive! Optimistic!

They get up when they're knocked down, brush themselves off, smile and continue their missions. They recognize that falling down now and then is a part of life. None of us would have ever learned to walk had we not fallen down again and again.

Truly great leaders love the challenges of business. Problems and hurdles keep life interesting and free of boredom. Life, like golf courses, wouldn't be half the fun without sand traps, water hazards, and the rough.

Effective leaders are positive people who stand up for what they believe and let the blows and barbs glance off like cotton balls. They're tough on the outside – and usually soft on the inside in that they have genuine compassion for other people.

Being optimistic, positive and upbeat are prerequisites of great leaders.

Does this mean, then, that leadership is reserved for the select few who inherited the "leadership gene," some mysterious "happy face" gene that causes some people to remain optimistic, positive and upbeat? Far from it. I'm convinced that it's possible to learn to be positive and upbeat.

This is not something that some people are born with. It's not that some people are just lucky and haven't had to face their share of life's problems. Being optimistic and upbeat are skills that anyone can learn just as we learned to walk, talk, read, swim, drive a car, or play golf and tennis. As far as I've been able to learn, none of us could do any of these things when we were born – and some of us can't do many of these things very well now.

There is another skill that's instinctive. Everyone can smile. Babies can smile when they're only a few days old. A smile is one ingredient of the positive, motivated, upbeat leader.

But something happens to too many of us along the way as we mature and become a part of the workforce. We forget how to smile, and we become negative and cynical, resulting in a downward spiral that damages our ability to cope with problems that are inherent in life and impedes our development as effective leaders.

Since optimism is not genetic, how can one go about learning this special skill?

  • Act positive. Act like today is a great day. Before long you'll start believing it and you won't have to act. When you get up tomorrow morning, say aloud, "This is a fantastic day!" Say it even if it's raining, or snowing, or 120 degrees in the shade. This is not a lie – it really is a wonderful day. Think about what it would be like not to wake up to a new day.  What if you don't really feel great or super fantastic? Then lie about it. While I'm an advocate of honesty, in my view it's OK to lie about two things – how you feel (you always feel great) and how the other individual looks (he or she always looks great).
  • Remember that there are positive seeds in everything that occurs. Over the long pull, everything turns out for the better. It's hard to see sometimes, but over a period of time the good becomes more apparent. If you explore any problem thoroughly, with much patience, some day it will be apparent that everything tends to happen for the better.
  • Read something inspirational every day. Problems, complaints, and negatives of every description always rise to the top.

    If you are a parent, chances are your kids seldom tell you that you are terrific. Instead, it's "All the other kids are going. Why can't I go? I can't wear that to school. My friends will think I'm some kind of weirdo. Why can't I have my own car? Everybody else has one.

    This is life, at home and at work. As you grow in your organization, more and more problems will rise to your level. When you go home after a litany of problems all day long, it's easy to conclude that the world is beginning to crumble – unless you have developed your ability to remain positive and optimistic.

    I've found that taking 15 minutes a day – preferably just before bedtime – to read something inspirational strengthens an inner force that gives each of us the strength and ability to accomplish any mission. All of us need something to cleanse our minds, not weight them down.

    Some of my favorite inspirational materials are Positive Thinking, published by the Peale Foundation for Christian Living; Guideposts magazine; a chapter from one of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's books; or The Bible.
  • Get some rest. When my flight was late and I arrived home at 2 a.m. and the new day started with the usual 5 a.m. starting gun, the problems that emerged during the day were larger than usual and appeared more unsolvable. But after a good night's sleep, the problem that was so weighty the day before came into focus more easily.

    The 11 o'clock news simply isn't worth it. The last thing you want on your mind at bedtime is a report of a house fire, a rape, and an auto accident killing one and injuring two. That's why we do not have, and will never have, a TV set in our bedroom. It's essential to get lots of rest so you'll be ready for the exciting new day tomorrow.

    If Leno and Letterman are that important in your life, tape the programs – and you can watch them tomorrow night – during the 6 o'clock news.
  • Hang around people who pull you up and not down. You've noticed that some people make you feel good; others make you feel bad. Associate with those who make you feel good.
  • Learn to laugh. Funny things are happening all around us. Look for them – in family activities, travel, the workplace. Laughter heals. Laughter produces endorphins which have been proven to cure many diseases, including cancer. If laughter can help cure cancer, think of its positive effect on you ability to deal with the challenges that are a part of life and to help you remain positive and upbeat, no matter what hurdles you face.

Luckily, there is no leadership gene that is possessed by those who chose the right parents. Rather, the characteristics of great leaders can be developed by anyone with a genuine desire and a strong commitment. Start today to remain cheerful, optimistic, positive, and upbeat, no matter what problems may emerge.

With these new skills, you'll be well on your way to becoming a great leader

Robert L. Bailey is the retired CEO of a major company. Visit or contact him at 919-629-6226 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..