A Leader CAN be Too Optimistic

It is nice to have a leader who believes in you and is confident that you can get the job done. And as leaders we might think we are being a great boss when we give our team a project, the authority to do what needs to be done, let them know we have no doubt in their ability and then get out of their way so they can do it.

However, a team left with the impression that their leader flippantly thinks the job is “easy” or that they should know what to do without any further direction may become resentful, unwilling to ask for clarification and unengaged.  

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to make sure your optimism is well received:


  •  Share where you believe the project might be challenging
  •  Create reasonable deadlines
  •  Ask your team for their thoughts on things like resource management and timelines
  •  Encourage creativity in problem solving
  •  Make it clear you are available for follow up questions
  •  Provide “air support” for them with upper management
  •  Recognize that you are asking them to take on an enormous task with a tight deadline
  •  Provide training and feedback as it is needed
  •  Allow for professional skepticism (a team is hobbled if disagreement is not allowed)


  •  Dismiss team concerns
  •  Create no-win situations
  •  Say things like “this will be a breeze”
  •  Throw your team under the bus when mistakes are made
  •  Leave your team to worry about and solve gaps in the project plan or timeline
  •  Expect perfection
  •  Believe you or your team are invincible

Being optimistic is a wonderful leadership trait as long as it is tempered with realistic expectations. Your team is going to feel more empowered to be creative when they know you understand that difficult situations happen and sometimes the first thing they try might not fix the problem.  

Here is a (non-work) example I witnessed recently:

A father was out jogging with his little boy (about eight years old I would guess) who was riding his bike. They came to a bridge that the boy had to walk his bike across.The bike was a little too big for him and he couldn’t get back on it by himself. I could hear the panic in his voice as he ran next to his bike and yelled “Daddy, I can’t get back on!” Dad was 30 yards away and the distance was growing. Dad yelled back, “You can do it!” I watched as the boy tried three times to get his peddles in the right place so he could get on while running with his bike so he wouldn’t lose sight of his father’s disappearing back and all but crying “Daddy!” Since I was right there and had to get off my bike to walk across the bridge anyway, I jogged back to the boy, held his bike upright so he could get on and balanced him until he got moving. I was rewarded with a “woo hoo!” from the boy and a yelled “thank you” from the father (who had finally turned around about 70 yards out and was coming back).

Maybe when he isn’t feeling the panic of abandonment that little boy can get on his bike by himself. But that Saturday, in that moment, he couldn’t. Don’t leave your team to flounder just because you believe they can do something. Pay attention and provide them with the support they need to be successful.

Have you ever had a boss who thought something was “simple” when you knew it was going to be a challenge?

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

PS - Any blog I write can be given in presentation or workshop format. If you're interested in a specific topic, please give me a call or send me an email. I'd love to chat with you and make it happen!

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.

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