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I was finalizing a project when I heard pounding on my office door. One of my computer training technical instructors said in a terrified tone, "I have no idea what just happened, but 12 Navy Seals I'm training this morning had their pagers go off simultaneously. They didn't say a thing. They just stood up and bolted out of the room. It can't be good."

9/11 had happened. Life and business would never be the same. 

Years later my cell phone rang. Our CEO sounded strangely somber. Our company had already gone bankrupt and re-organized. What could be worse? He shared succinctly, "We have two weeks to find two million dollars or we're done." 

The 2008-2010 housing crisis had hit. By February of 2010, the U.S. economy had lost 8.8 million jobs from the peak in late 2007. This crisis was now hitting our business home and hard.

Two separate generational crises. Two different career challenges. The same decision. Which path to pursue? Pessimism or optimism?

Bob Iger, former CEO of Disney, in his best-selling book, The Ride of a Lifetime, states:

"Optimism in a leader, especially in challenging times, is so vital. Pessimism leads to paranoia...This isn't about saying things are good when they're not, and it's not about conveying some innate faith that 'things will work out.' It's about believing you and the people around you can steer toward the best outcome, and not communicating the feeling that all is lost if things don't break your way. The tone you set as a leader has an enormous effect on the people around you. No one wants to follow a pessimist." 

The good news is we not only survived, but we thrived in both generational crises. We did so because we partitioned off the path to pessimism. We overtly chose optimism.

And now we face a third generational crisis in less than one-quarter of a century. Our families, friends, employees, and teams are looking and longing for leadership. Emphatic, authentic, and most importantly, optimistic leadership.

YOU have influence. Partition off any pathway to pessimism. Optimism, according to Bob Iger, "sets a different machine in motion." Optimism is not only the best path for you but also a path that others will gladly and gratefully pursue with you. 

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Topics: sales leadership, sales management, leadership

Dan Whitfield

Written by Dan Whitfield

Dan is dedicated to "coaching up" small business owners and leaders of growth-oriented sales organizations. His goal is to help you get where you want to go. Faster.