Dark Thoughts for Leaders

On today’s WSJ.com, Oliver Burkeman’s article The Power of Negative Thinking, there are assertions any leader should contemplate upon and decide what to adopt in their lives. The basic premise is that focusing on negative outcomes in thought and action can have beneficial effect. Negative thinking can take several flavors and I subscribe to some of the assertions in the article, to wit:

Negative thinking may be worst case scenario and its consequences, previewing in real life what it would be like to live under the circumstances of failure (wearing the hair shirt for a trial period), examining the value of “defensive pessimism.” Burkeman goes further in having tested in the London underground (subway, in American vocabulary) his fear of embarassment — a single component that can lead people to hold back from following a good path.

And the thesis includes that positive thinking, it is asserted, can backfire. Having rigid goals and plans to achieve them can also be counterproductive. Research indicates that successful entrepreneurs do not have rigid goals and detailed plans (the emphasis on “rigid” and “detailed” is mine).

As I posted on Burkeman’s site:

As coach to Chief Executives for over twenty years, my experience suggests these modifications to the thesis of your article: 1) Rigid goals and plans can be big obstacles, but having a “desired state” or vision is essential to both success and contentment and 2) what Dr. Ellis himself did and then recommended, what you did on the subway has a more generic application in that “field experiments” in which you try something outside your comfort zone modify both thinking and behavior on a wide range of life activities.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?

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What Made jack welch JACK WELCH

How Ordinary People Become
Extraordinary Leaders

by Stephen H. Baum (Random House)

Most leaders of American companies started out as ordinary people. What prepared them for the top job?

Countless more ordinary people of equal talent never developed the leadership core required to run the show. Why not?

"Lessons for life about the core leadership traits of character, risk taking decisiveness and the ability to engage and inspire followers."
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