In their book, The High Impact Leader, Bruce Avolio and Fred Luthans write about what they call psychological capital (PsyCap for short). They highlight four major components and while their value need not be limited exclusively to leaders, there is particular relevance.
- Hope – defined by positive psychologists as comprising both will and way: a hopeful leader will not only demonstrate will power (‘We can get through this’), but also way power (‘here are two feasible ways’).
- Optimism expects a positive outcome. For an optimist, failure is only a temporary setback and is not viewed as long-lasting or something to be generalised.
- Self-efficacy (aka confidence) relates to one’s belief in being able to successfully carry out a specific task.
- Resiliency: think of it as the ability to bounce back. Avolio and Luthans write that ‘Unquestioning self-awareness, belief in oneself and the mission, and the ability to adapt over time, are all part of the authentic leader’s psychological capital of resiliency.’
What do you think? Is effective leadership possible on a consistent basis without these characteristics? How would you rank them? Would you say that any of them stands out in particular?
It’s worth thinking of some of the most effective leaders you have come across and asking yourself whether you can see evidence of high degrees of these characteristics in their character and leadership. You are probably more inclined to follow a positive, optimistic leader with a track record of getting beyond setbacks than a pessimist who struggles to see any way forward.
And if you are a leader, it’s worth evaluating your own levels of psychological capital. How would you attempt to build up your store of PsyCap?
Interesting too, then, to add the (biblical) faith element and reflect on the words of God’s commission to Joshua:
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you… Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land…
Or Paul’s encouragement to an apparently timid young leader in Timothy, reminding him that God had not given him a spirit of fear.