You may feel that you have plenty of reasons to be cynical. The world can be perceived as perpetually gloomy given worldwide terrorism, the collapse of our financial system and ongoing scandals. However, you don’t have the luxury of cynicism if you want to be an effective leader.
Cynics are more than skeptical. They’ve lost their faith in others, rarely trust and don’t believe that people or organizations can change. In a post called, Spirit At Work – Hope vs Cynicism, Lance Secretan says that cynics don’t “retain a sense of wonder at the marvels” inherent in everyday life. A cynic has learned “to distrust, to be wary, and to suspect the worst in people and life. Over time, this becomes a self-fulfilling philosophy.” Secretan shares this quote by H. L. Mencken: “A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”
Yes, leaders must be realistic, and reality can’t be viewed through rose-colored glasses. However, a leader’s outlook must reflect the truth that most people aren’t really out to get you. Most people don’t intend to behave in a negative fashion. As Carlon Hass writes in his post called, Overcoming Cynicism and Discovering Your Heroism, “what about the times we put our faith in people and they came through? How about all the times we looked to another person for support and they were there? How often do we forget that? How often have we let cynicism blind us to that truth?”
A well-rounded view of reality means that you don’t let your radar down. You are aware that people do run the gamut between altruistic and mean, even evil. Avoiding cynicism means that you don’t assume the worst. You also are prepared to deal with whatever life brings, welcoming the good and reacting appropriately to the rest.
There is a choice to be made. Will you view your interactions with others through the lens of cynicism? Will you be a pessimistic curmudgeon or an inspiring leader? Consider assuming, as Secretan says, that “ninety-eight percent of our human experiences will be gifts of love and good intentions.” Your leadership impact depends upon that choice.
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