Optimism and Attitude Are Inherent to Great Leadership

Leader

Many, many years ago (in the 1980’s), I worked for Unisys Corporation in Jericho, NY. My district manager was a gentleman by the name of Bob Greifeld. I worked closely with Bob for over four years and he and I became close friends.

Eventually, Bob moved to a company called Automated Security Clearances, which was purchased by Sunguard. One day Bob received a call from a recruiter with a very interesting opportunity. Bob went to his boss at Sunguard and said “I love working for Sunguard, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime.” His boss told him to go for it, and Bob won the job of a lifetime… and he held it.

For the last decade, since May of 2003, Bob has been Chief Executive Officer of NASDAQ/OMX. (Click the link for Bob’s Forbes profile).

The world (and Forbes) consider Bob a great leader, so what can we learn? Having worked closely with this man and knowing him well, I want to share some thoughts.

Great leaders are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, or the best looking, or some other aesthetic quality. Instead, I believe optimism and attitude are the most critical ingredients in what makes a leader great.

Here are the four key characteristics I found in Bob’s leadership style, that I believe are inherent in any great leader:

Optimism

Great leaders have boundless optimism. They infect their team members with optimism too. They have a “never say die” attitude.

Listening Skills

Great leaders are great listeners. Have a concern? The leader wants to hear your concerns. He or she listens intently to those concerns.

Passion

Great leaders have passion. When they believe in something, they go get it. You get the impression that nothing can stop them from what they want to achieve.

Genuine Caring

The best leaders are those who genuinely care for their team members and who always keep what’s best for their team at top of mind.

Great leaders are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, or the best looking, or some other aesthetic quality. Instead, I believe optimism and attitude are the most critical ingredients in what makes a leader great.

It seems clear that the very best leaders are those who offer optimism and a good personal attitude. They clearly exhibit Optimism, Listening skills, Passion and Genuine caring. If any employee approaches them with a concern, they listen intently. They genuinely care. You never hear a disparaging word or negative comment from a good leader – their optimism is boundless

Those are the characteristics of Bob Griefeld, my long-time manager and CEO of NASDAQ/OMX.

What other characteristics do you think make a great leader? Let’s discuss below, in the Comments.

Jeff Ogden is an award-winning marketing expert as well as the President of Find New Customers. He’s also the Creator and Host of the very popular and syndicated show Marketing Made Simple TV.

  • I agree the characteristics you list are all critical to great leadership. They also go hand-in-hand.

    One reason is because the optimist sees a problem as an opportunity. They believe there is a solution. When one feels positive emotions they do not perceive problems the same way someone who feels less positively focused does (and the ideas that come to them are better as a result).

    I also believe great leaders must maintain an open mind. Not one that accepts any idea put forth but one that will ask–even of outlandish sounding ideas, “What if this is true?”

    The open-minded curiosity serves them well. Humanity is well-known for rejecting beneficial ideas and solutions because they sound unbelievable. It requires both the optimistic outlook and a mind open enough to give consideration to creative solutions to be a great leader.

  • Hi Jeff – Nice short list of essential leadership traits. I was fortunate like you and worked for two excellent CEOs in my early career. I was naive at the time and thought all leaders operated like that. :-) I would suggest one more essential trait: clarity. Both were masters and communicating very clearly so there were no questions about what was important, what the priorities were, expectations, objectives, what the root cause of a problem was, etc. I find a fair number of leaders who, after nearly every meeting, leave staff scratching their heads. It’s tough to succeed when you’re not sure what to do. Other than that, very good list.

  • Jeff, you are so on the money with this whole list. Regarding optimism: my observation from working with some very talented, inspiring leaders is, clearly-unshakable faith that your team will ultimately prevail – even if there are setbacks, as there typically are – is contagious, and absolutely essential. People naturally experience fear and doubt. It’s paralyzingly. A confident leader will rub off on them and inspire faith. That’s one important way in which steep odds are overcome.

  • Fantastic piece. Optimism, Listening, Passion & CARE. Wow. Who would have guessed ? Ha.
    “The best leaders are those who genuinely care for their team members and who always keep what’s best for their team at top of mind”
    Enough said. Thanks Jeff.
    Al

  • Tom

    It nice when leaders are ‘nice’. But not all those who successfully head up large successful organisations are. A good dose of narcissism seems to serve some of those leaders well.

  • SDJ

    Love this article!

  • EMUKULOT JONE CLINT

    Good pieces of advice especially for we and other leaders worldwide.

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  • These four great personal characteristics would help make
    any leader someone with whom others would enjoy working.

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