Tough-Minded Optimism

Recently, William C. Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company magazine, had a provocative piece in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “Why the Future Belongs to Tough-Minded Optimists


Taylor was not talking about wide-eyed optimism, but rather as American writer and civic reformer John Gardner has famously coined the perspective, a “tough-minded optimism” that is a mix of original ideas, deep convictions, and an ability to accept change.  Gardner’s most famous insight is that “The future is not shaped by people who don’t really believe in the future. It is created by highly motivated people, by enthusiasts, by men and women who want something very much or believe very much.”


So, Taylor has observed that successful people and leaders have often developed compelling answers to four questions that get to the heart of what lifts their spirits and heightens their performance, and what rallies others to help them succeed.


Here are Taylor’s four questions of tomorrow’s leaders, whether we are speaking of individuals, or companies, or organizations.


Do you have a definition of success for your business that allows you to stand for something special and that inspires others to stand with you?

The most successful companies don’t just sell competitive products and services; they stand for important ideas, ideas that shape the future direction of their fields, ideas that reshape the sense of what’s possible for customers, colleagues, and investors.


Do you and your colleagues work as distinctively as you compete?

The most successful leaders and organizations think differently from everyone else. But they also care more than everyone else — about customers, about colleagues, about how the whole organization conducts itself in a world with so many opportunities to cut corners and compromise on values. It’s good to be efficient and professional; it’s essential to be memorable and meaningful.


Are you as consistent as you are creative?

Management guru Jim Collins puts it this way: “The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.” If you want to be a tough-minded optimist, then your priorities have to stay consistent in good times and in bad.


Have you figured out how your company’s history can help to shape its future?

The most optimistic leaders don’t disavow what’s come before. Instead, they reinterpret what’s come before as a way to develop a line of sight into what comes next. Sometimes, the very act of rediscovering the past creates the confidence necessary to craft a game plan for the future.


To read the full article by William Taylor, click this link to take you to the Harvard Business Review


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