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Even in these most uncertain of times, a willingness to look to the future with a positive frame of mind speaks of inner strength. Image Credit: AFP

My uncle taught me, when life gives you lemons — which we have a few in the world today — make lemonade. In all this doom and gloom, we can make lemonade.

Yes, national economies are grinding to a halt, markets are taking a hit, and US oil prices have hit rock bottom. But if you can cultivate a positive state of mind, then that’s pretty much the most important asset you will ever possess as a leader.

Ok, so the power of positive thinking is not exactly a revelation, but in a context of acute coronavirus fatigue and a lockdown that feels like an eternity, it’s something worth remembering, if you ask me.

When it seems like the outside world offers nothing but bad news, and our homes start to become a breeding ground for anxiety, frustration and boredom, it’s easy for negative thoughts to worm their way into our minds.

Don’t get me wrong, lockdown is infinitely preferable to the prospect of being wired up to a ventilator. And as one Second World War veteran recently reminded the media, “All we’re being asked to do is stay at home” (as collective “war” efforts go, that’s not so bad).

But none of that makes this life of confinement fun. As the weeks draw on, isolation begins to test relationships, drain morale and chip away at the focus, concentration and productivity of the millions of people now working remotely.

So, with Covid-19 refusing to pack up and leave, the importance of positive thinking is greater than ever — especially if you’re in a position of leadership. Right now, your employees need you, and your positive thinking will provide them with much needed confidence and reassurance that there are brighter days ahead.

It will help dilute the fear and anxiety that might be preventing them from performing at their best as they sit with their laptops in the discomfort of their makeshift home offices.

They matter

And let’s not forget, just as much as you matter to your employees, they matter to you too. A simple truth of management is that regardless of your personal achievements, success boils down to accomplishing work through others. To that end, one of the best ways of making people actually want to do their best for you, is to develop an infectious positive outlook that touches everyone who crosses your path.

Writing in “Harvard Business Review” several years ago, Shawn Achor, CEO of BetterUp, highlighted Burt’s Bees as an example of how powerful positivity can be. Achor explained how during a particularly stressful period of international expansion for the natural cosmetics company, then-CEO John Replogle would send out a daily email singling out an employee for praise, and how he facilitated a three-hour session with employees on the topic of happiness.

A senior member of the Burt’s Bees team told Achor that Replogle’s focus on positive leadership kept managers engaged and cohesive, resulting in a successful transition to a global company.

Don’t underestimate that vibe

For Burt’s Bees, positive thinking paid dividends, yet the role of happiness in success is often underrated — written off as too “hippy” for business or management science. But research indicates that it plays a critical role in driving performance. In an analysis of more than 200 academic studies, researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King, and Ed Diener found strong evidence that pointed to directional causality between life satisfaction and successful business outcomes.

Of course, achieving life satisfaction is easier said than done — it is a lifelong pursuit on a good day, never mind in the depressing climate of Covid-19. But even in the toughest of times, a little positive thinking can go a long way.

Try to see the lockdown as a rare window to prepare for the future. Take the time to devise new strategies, clarify your vision and enhance working practices.

Most important, instill positivity in your people through your own belief and positive outlook. It is in times of crisis that the strongest bonds are forged, so seize the chance to rally your team. The chances are, you will never get this opportunity again.

— Tommy Weir is CEO of enaible: AI-powered leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at tsw@tommyweir.com.