“I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?” – Ronnie Shakes
If you want to become company president or make your own business grow, you have to be strong and positive.
Smart people are often tempted to criticize the companies they work for. Some smart business owners ridicule their own customers. You can get away with a little of this for a while, but eventually it will catch up with you. And you won’t like what happens. That’s because cynicism feels good only to the cynic. For everyone else, it feels mean.
I am an experienced cynic so I can tell you from personal experience: It is as beneficial as sugar. You get a quick, momentary rush. But the long-term effect is unpleasant.
To a cynic, a cynical comment is a clean swipe at truth. Thus, to crotchety Ambrose Bierce, a cynic is simply someone who “sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.” It certainly feels that way for a moment or two. But that’s only on the outside. Inside, even the hardest cynic feels the pulse of insincerity. Clara Middleton, the wonderful character in George Meredith’s tragicomic novel The Egoist, put it this way: “Cynicism is intellectual dandyism without the coxcomb’s feathers.”
Cynicism and Leadership – Why They Don’t Get Along
Leadership comes from understanding that it is much better to lead people not by their noses but by their imaginations. You can break apart a unified group with cynicism. But to bring it together and get it to move forward, you need sincerity and conviction.
Cynicism is fundamentally a destructive process. And the odd thing is that it usually happens to the best employees.
Cynics are generally smart people who feel disenfranchised. Angry that things cannot be the way they think they should be, cynics vents their energy into negative observations and denigrating humor.
Even if everything around you seems wrong and everyone above you seems stupid, you must resist the lure of cynicism. In the long run, it will diminish your career and damage your psyche.
Here’s how to be positive even under the worst circumstances:
First, determine how you feel about your company’s primary purpose. If you have some serious problem with it, quit. It is not going to change. Nor should it.
If you are okay with the basic plan but unhappy with aspects of its implementation, take a big breath and think about the following:
- Nothing is ever perfect
- You may not be either.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I’m not suggesting that you need to compromise any of your personal standards. But some of the frustration you feel might be related to impatience or an incomplete view of things.
Redirect the energy you’ve been putting into cynicism into an intelligent and enthusiastic embrace of the company’s mission. This may seem very awkward at first. But as you get used to it, you’ll experience a steady increase in personal power.
You can have different ideas about tactics and even strategies. And as your power and influence increase, so will your ability to see your own tactical and strategic ideas implemented. But you cannot disagree with the fundamental purpose of your company. If you find that you can’t get on board with it, get a new job.
In How to Become CEO, Jeffrey J. Fox puts it bluntly: “Cynicism about one’s own corporation is the hallmark of losers, not future presidents.”
Whether your goal is to become a CEO or to be a better CEO, a necessary step is to get rid of the bad and self-indulgent habit of cynicism and replace it with a thorough and energetic pattern of positive behavior.
The fringe benefit – and you won’t know this till you’ve made the transformation – is that you will be just as smart as a positive leader… and will feel a whole lot better.