Monday, April 06, 2009

Optimism and Pessimism are Good Buddies in Times of Crisis

The economic crisis we’re facing is not at root the result of too much fear but too little.

---Thomas Homer-Dixon, (April 4, 2009), The Globe and Mail

Hope versus fear, optimism versus pessimism. Two styles of oratory. What should a leader do?

Some like Homer-Dixon say we need to strike up the fear band to new noisy levels so that we can see more clearly (reduce our delusional side). Others talk of leaders having to walk a tightrope between cautious optimism and realism. Certainly Franklin Roosevelt preferred optimism to accompany his “New Deal”. Barack Obama is known more for “hope” and “Yes, we can”, than fear and pessimism.

Instead of arguing one versus another, if we layer on a strategic planning framework, we need both—the creative tension between the desired future and the hard truths of the present. It is the tension between the two that propels today toward tomorrow. The resolution of the big issues cannot occur without the two “ends” and line of sight trajectories between the two (strategies and priorities).

If we simply remain in the muck of fear, we literally cannot move. Only inspiration can ignite our hearts and minds in the direction of collective action. The dose of reality is meaningless and onerous without some good reason to get out of bed. That’s why optimism and hope must always be within our midst.

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