Having a positive attitude is extraordinarily important for those in leadership positions. But positivism must be tempered by reality. The key is to strike a balance between an honest assessment of challenges in our way, and the necessity to envision and articulate a viable path through them. In previous blogs I have shared my disdain for Chicken Little. There is nothing more demoralizing than somebody constantly crying about the sky falling. But on the opposite end of the attitude spectrum sits Mr. Magoo. Mr. Magoo is unable, or unwilling, to see the peril in his path and blissfully walks into the landmine festered fields without a second thought. It’s funny to watch in the cartoons (especially when slapstick luck steps in to save the day), but it is hugely irresponsible in the real world.
It is one thing to have and espouse a positive attitude, but it is quite another to cover your eyes and ears in the face of real and imminent peril. Despite the new-age mantra of books like “The Secret”, one simply cannot wish away problems. The practice of Management By Wishful Thinking (MBWT) and the world of Mr. Magoo might seem like a happier place than the Land of Chicken Little, but it is ultimately just as toxic to an organization.
As the old saying goes, “the first step is admitting you have a problem.” It takes courage to admit a problem and it takes true leadership and cunning to take it on. There is no courage in denial, and there is nothing compelling about being oblivious. Unfortunately too many leaders, especially the entrepreneurial type, seem to do exactly that. Perhaps they confuse the courage associated with taking risks, with the delusional state of denying risks exist. Whatever the reason, it is dangerous and we leaders must be just as wary of becoming a Mr. Magoo as succumbing to a Chicken Little. Compelling leadership necessitates being soundly grounded in the reality of today without becoming snared by it. Unfortunately wishful thinking just doesn’t cut it.
Ty J. Shattuck,
Follow on Twitter: @tyshattuck