Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one. – Sam Rayburn
The story is told of a judge who had been frequently ridiculed by a conceited lawyer. When asked by a friend why he didn’t rebuke his assailant, he replied, “In our town lives a widow who has a dog. And whenever the moon shines, it goes outside and barks all night.” Having said that, the magistrate shifted the conversation to another subject. Finally someone asked, “But Judge, what about the dog and the moon?” “Oh,” he replied, “the moon went on shining–that’s all.”
One of the dangers you face as a leader is in developing a cynical attitude. You try your best as a leader to keep a strong positive attitude; after all, you are the one setting the example for others. But we all know that the mental, physical, and emotional toll of being a leader can get to the best among us at times.
Symptoms of cynicism are obvious- if not to you, then to others around you. A cynical leader thinks worse-case scenarios, has an outlook that is more negative, and is too quick to notice the flaws in other people. He tends to second guess peoples motives and is increasingly insecure. This type of behavior can be viewed as “out of character” by those who know you best and are signs that cynicism has taken root.
Taming your inner cynic can be challenging. There are just some days and some people who will take you to your limit. I get it. So what is a leader to do? Here are five suggestions to help you come back to the bright side.
Choose to be thankful
Instead of being quick to complain about how bad things are why not choose a thankful attitude instead? When you shift your focus to all of the good in your life then your attitude will begin to change. It becomes harder to be negative with a thankful heart.
Choose to be quiet
Cynical people tend to not only be negative but often time very vocal. Instead of saying the first negative thing that comes to mind why not just pause; take a deep breath, and keep that thought to yourself. You never have to apologize for the words you don’t say.
Choose to listen
Cynical people can be that way because they are formulating thoughts, opinions, and attitudes often with incomplete information. A good idea for you as a leader is to listen to your people and gather facts before you speak or make a decision.
Choose to take some down time
There is an old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” that should be taken to heart. I’m convinced that most cynicism in leaders is attributed to this thought. It is important for all leaders to have quality down time to re-charge and re-connect– to rest and be restored mentally and physically. Leaders need rest.
Choose to make a difference
The attitude at the top of the organization tends to be the one throughout the organization. As a leader you carry that responsibility. The daily choices you make are critical not only for your well-being but for those you lead.
No leader is immune from stress and each battles the temptation to be cynical at times. But know this: cynicism is a choice and is a reflection upon your leadership style. The discipline of a good attitude over being cynical is winnable. The outcome rests in your daily choices.
In closing, let me leave you with some inspiration from the Anyway poem attributed to Mother Teresa:
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
© 2015 Doug Dickerson
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