Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Optimism, a force multiplier for Leaders:" Redux

A number of years ago I wrote an essay on the powerful impact that "optimism" has on organizations and how "optimism" is a powerful tool for leaders broadly. ( see more at   )The center point of the essay emanates from a quote of former Secretary of State Colin Powell on how he felt that a military force's impact and effectiveness was enhanced or "multiplied" by the level of "optimism" of that organization.  This idea continues to ring true to me today, in business and across political/ cultural leaders more broadly!  "Optimism"is an important tool for leaders, and one that seems to be in short supply broadly today.  In this essay I want to connect this concept with the most recent "Annual Letter" published by Bill and Melinda Gates.

I have made it a habit over the past few years to read the "annual letter" as soon as it is released.  I always find it a interesting, data filled, thought expanding read and I am frequently triggered by new learnings and insights highlighted in the letter.  If you haven't had the chance, please take a moment to read this years letter in full (  In the closing section of this years letter, I was struck by a passage that related directly to the idea of "optimism" and how the Gates Foundation broadly, and Bill and Melinda Gates personally, were working with this dynamic:

"We get asked a lot these days whether we're still optimistic about the future. We say: Absolutely. One reason is that we believe in the power of innovation. But an even bigger reason is that we've seen firsthand that for every challenge we've written about in this letter, there are people devoting their ideas, their resources, and even their lives to solving them.

When we're feeling overwhelmed by negative headlines, we remind ourselves that none of us has the right to sit back and expect that the world is going to keep getting better. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to push it in that direction.

In that way, we've found that optimism can be a powerful call to action. And it has a multiplier effect: The more optimists there are working for a better future, the more reasons there are to be optimistic."   (the bold/underline highlights are my addition.)

These closing paragraphs ring deeply true to me!  The idea of feeling "overwhelmed by negative headlines" is a weekly reality that I personally share, and yet the letter reminds us that "none of us have the right to sit back and expect that the world is going to get better."  We all have to take action to create a future that is different and better than today.  We all have to find our own ways to be "optimists" in the face of negative headlines, world occurrences and political rhetoric.  We all need to find ways to be join the fight and be "optimistic" leaders, whether in the organizations where we work, community groups where we volunteer, or in our day to day activities in our neighborhoods and cities.

Take a second and re-read the closing sentence from the quote above....

"The more optimists there are working for a better future, the more reasons there are to be optimistic."   

I want to encourage all off us to join in this "optimistic" push forward and to be part of a growing group of "optimistic" leaders driving for a better future!

note: I am proud to highlight that my brother-in-law,  Jan-Willem, works for the Gates Foundation and his involvement has opened my eyes to their work, approach and significant global impact!