A story is told of President Thomas Jefferson that during his days as president, he and a group of companions were traveling across the country on horseback. They came to a river which had left its banks because of a recent downpour. The swollen river had washed the bridge away.
Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting for his life against the rapid currents. The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused a traveler who was not part of their group to step aside and watch. After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river. The president agreed without hesitation. The man climbed on, and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other side.
As the stranger slid off the back of the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group asked him, "Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this favor of?" The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the president who had helped him. "All I know," he said, "Is that on some of your faces was written the answer 'No,' and on some of them was the answer 'yes.' His was a 'Yes' face."
When it comes to the climate in your organization, what does your face say about you? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Sure, times are challenging, but the face you wear is giving signals that your team is picking up on. A strong leader is one who does not shy away from reality, but looks through the lens of optimism in the face of a challenge. Here’s how the optimist does it.
An optimist confronts his fears with resolve. The men riding with Jefferson had to confront a raging river and risk death to cross to the other side. Yet, one by one, they took the plunge and made their way across.
In your business I am not suggesting reckless abandon. I am suggesting that you not allow fear to paralyze you to the point that you are afraid to take risks. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi said, “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”
Obstacles along your path may not be of our choosing or creation, but the way in which you confront them is. Like Jefferson, face your fears head on and get over them.
An optimist gives others confidence. At the crossing of the river was a man who was not a part of the entourage. After observing the men, he approached Jefferson and asked him for a ride to the other side. The m`n chose Jefferson not because he knew he was the president, but because his countenance exuded confidence.
As a leader, team members are evaluating your confidence level and are looking for assurances from you that things are well. Rudy Giuliani said, “Leaders need to be optimists. Their vision is beyond the present.” If as a leader you are weighed down by fear and doubt and are not looking to the future, your team will suffer. Jefferson’s face inspired all the confidence one man needed to face his fear. What does your face say about you?
An optimist looks for the good in all situations. The story is told of two boys who were twins, one an incurable optimist, one a pessimist. The parents were worried about the extremes of behavior and attitude and finally took the boys in to see a psychologist. The psychologist observed them a while and then said that they could be easily helped.
He said that they had a room filled with all the toys a boy could want. They would put the pessimist in that room and allow him to enjoy life. They also had another room that they filled with horse manure. They put the optimist in that room. They observed both boys through one way mirrors. The pessimist continued to be a pessimist, stating that he had no one to play with.
They went to look in on the optimist, and were astounded to find him digging through the manure. The psychologist ran into the room and asked what on earth the boy was doing. He replied that with all that manure, he was sure there had to be a pony in the room somewhere.
Sometimes you have to dig through some unpleasant things to find the good, but all things worthwhile are. Regardless of how difficult things may be around you, carry the face that says ‘Yes’.
P.S. – Once again this year I am participating in the Start! Lowcountry Heart Walk sponsored by the American Heart Association. Did you know that heart disease is the nation’s number 1 and 3 killers? This year, as was the case last year, I will be walking in memory of my father who suffered from strokes. The walk is in Charleston, SC September 26.
I have a team goal to raise $1,000. Your contribution will help the American Heart Association in their fight against heart disease. At the top right location of this page is a link to my donation page where through a secured link you can make your contribution. Thank you for donation and support as together we fight against heart disease!
© 2009 Doug Dickerson