Non-negative thinking helps leaders build strong inner cores. Strong inner cores comprising solid characters, healthy beliefs, and supportive values lead to positive thoughts and mature emotions. Leadership coaching can help leaders devise strategies to defeat their negative thinking tendencies by disputing the validity of their thoughts, stopping their negative thoughts in their tracks, and replacing them with self-affirming statements.


“Our attitude towards life determines life’s attitude towards us.” – John Mitchell.

Successful leaders are inherently optimistic. They must be. Otherwise, they couldn’t create comprehensive and inspiring visions of the future and work tirelessly toward achieving them.

Leaders know and respect the power of non-negative thinking. The mind is the source of all human accomplishments. And in the context of leadership, positive thinking takes on added significance.

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Non-negative thinking begets positive results.

Non-negative thinking allows leaders to develop their resilience and leadership maturity. Positive leaders find it easy to boost team morale and solve problems. Instead of burrowing ever deeper in despair, non-negative leaders see solutions to problems everywhere. Positivity helps with decision-making skills, conflict management, adaptability, and motivation. Non-negative thinking is indispensable for innovation.

To get leaders to change their thinking, leadership coaching must aim to effect change on the deepest level of leaders’ personalities: their inner cores.

Understanding Your Values

Leaders’ values, references, and beliefs make up the outer layer of their inner cores. Values stem directly from one’s self-concept and elements of character. As a leadership coaching expert, I often use the iceberg analogy to illustrate the relationship between leadership character and values.

One’s elements of character make up the body of the iceberg, well hidden beneath the waves. Values are the visible peak. Values rely on and evidence character. They define what leaders like and what interests them.

If you value something, you display a positive attitude toward it and find pleasure in it. When you like something, you act in ways that expose you to the pleasures you associate with it. That is how your values shape your behaviors and actions.

Mature, self-aware leaders understand the differences between different types of values. They know their immediate values should have a shallower impact on their behaviors than their ultimate values.

By understanding their value hierarchies, leaders can improve their leadership effectiveness, sustain their strengths, and clarify their development needs. Leaders who know their value hierarchies understand the forces driving their decisions and the challenges they may face.

Among these forces, pleasure-seeking and pain avoidance play significant roles.

The Pleasure-to-pain Ratio in Decision-making

When leaders’ decision-making aligns with their values, they avoid pain as part of their decision-making process. The pleasure-to-pain ratio defines leaders’ decisions to a significant extent.

Every time leaders make a decision, they weigh the likelihood of deriving pleasure and pain from it. Decision-making can trigger many emotional states leaders may want to avoid. Such states include guilt, anxiety, worry, loneliness, depression, anger, etc.

Different leaders attach different hierarchies to these painful emotions. This hierarchy defines the roles their negative emotions play in their decisions. Pleasure-seeking goes hand-in-hand with pain avoidance. The greater pleasure they hope to derive from a decision, the more likely leaders will make that decision.

The Power of Positive Thoughts

Non-negative thinking isn’t the same as positive thinking. The two differ in scope and execution.

Positive thinking focuses exclusively on adopting positive attitudes toward challenges and nurturing positive thoughts in general.

Non-negative thinking is a broader concept that includes positive thinking but also covers techniques and skills to avoid negative thinking, attitudes, and emotions. Unlike positive thinking, non-negative thinking acknowledges the positive and negative aspects of a situation but dwells on the positive instead of the negative.

Mature, self-aware leaders are skilled at disputing negative thoughts. They understand that thoughts are the sources of emotions. And by controlling their thoughts, they can learn to control their emotions.

Such leaders know that they can decide to be happy and hopeful. They know that effective thoughts lead to effective emotions that trigger effective behaviors that bring effective leadership results.


Your thoughts lead to words, and words lead to actions. Your actions define who you are.

The benefits of positive thinking go well above and beyond desirable leadership outcomes. Leaders who can harness this power reap personal benefits as well.

  • Increased resilience. Positive thoughts enable people to handle setbacks and failures more maturely. People who see obstacles as temporary are more likely to find solutions and bounce back after a blow.
  • Healthier motivation. Positive thoughts and optimism provide the fuel behind motivation. Those who think they will succeed will pursue their goals more aggressively and persistently.
  • Better mental and physical health. Positive thinking boosts motivation and reduces anxiety and depression.
  • Better relationships. People respond to positivity. Positive thinking promotes better social interactions, boosting leaders’ abilities to build meaningful relationships with their peers and reports.
  • Enhanced problem-solving. Positive thinking finds solutions everywhere. Positive thinkers waste no time on sorrow and self-pity. They seek and find creative solutions.
  • Enhanced life satisfaction. Positive people are happier. Their attitudes attract joy and satisfaction while repelling stress and depression.

Leadership coaching can help leaders devise strategies to boost their positive thinking abilities.

Strategies for Non-Negative Thinking

As an executive coaching specialist, I can help clients develop a passion for creating powerful reservoirs of positive leadership references. They can use these references to support the validity of their non-negative thoughts. As positive thinking patterns translate into positive actions and results, leaders propel themselves into cycles of ever greater leadership maturity.

Leaders can use three other strategies to defeat negative thoughts and promote positive thinking patterns.

Stress Inoculation

Events like performance reviews can be stressful for leaders. Many worry about such events well in advance, developing a sort of anxiety that stops their positive thoughts in their tracks. To defeat this tendency, leaders can write themselves a note.

In the note, they can point out calmly why they should view the event as an opportunity for feedback rather than a trial by fire. They can anticipate the reviewers’ reactions and address their concerns in the note calmly, without pressure.

Before their interviews, they can recap the note without learning it by heart. By remembering its essence, they’ll be able to handle the reviewers’ questions and address their concerns without counterproductive emotions.

Thought Stopping

Don’t you sometimes wish you could stop negative thoughts in their tracks? Well, you can. And the exercise is as simple as closing your eyes and uttering “stop.”


Stand up to your negative thoughts.

We all struggle with nagging, destructive thoughts. Some of us have learned how to deal with them, however. Once you’ve ordered your negative thinking to stop, replace the nagging thought with a positive one.

It may take a while to master this technique, as some negative thoughts can be persistent and may return repeatedly. By repeating the practice, however, you will find that you can stave them off for longer and longer.

Self-affirming statements like “I am worthy of success” or “I’m a talented leader” can also help. The final touch is turning positive thoughts into beliefs. Self-affirming visualization and deep personal reservoirs of positively charged leadership references can help you achieve that objective.

Disputing Negative Thoughts

We all tend to exaggerate the gravity of negative situations and experiences. Our negative thoughts are always larger than reality. And that leaves them vulnerable to logic-based scrutiny.

“To create, one must first question everything.” – Eileen Gray.

Mature leaders aren’t free of negative thoughts. However, their self-awareness allows them to identify such thoughts and question them. When you think: “I can never do anything right,” follow it quickly with “Is that really so?”

Seek evidence supporting the negative statements your mind serves up. And when you find none, you will see your negativity doesn’t hold up. Rather than being a reflection of reality, it is but a figment of your mind’s self-sabotaging tendencies.

Seeking alternative explanations is another way to dispute the validity of negative thoughts. Multiple factors influence events and situations. It makes zero sense to single out and dwell on one such reason.

These are only a few tools in the arsenal of mature, creative, non-negative thinkers. They can and should employ many other strategies that promote non-negative thinking.

Skill-building Steps to Engage Positive Thinking

Adopting positive thinking requires an internal commitment from leaders. And this is where leadership coaching can help. As a leadership coach, I know that non-negative thinking involves two stages of analysis and commitment to improvement.

Visualizing Positive and Negative Situations

The first stage is to visualize the details of a situation that results in a negative outcome. Verbalization always helps cement mental images. Leaders should ask themselves what they did to solve the situation in question, and where they went wrong.

The next step is to put into words the emotions and thoughts the exercise triggers in them now. The final step is to make an intentional commitment to change.

The second stage involves visualizing a situation that yields a positive result. The steps are the same as with the negative experience. The exercise helps leaders develop the skills they need to deconstruct and analyze situations. At the same time, it helps them establish cognitive associations between the positive thoughts and actions they take and the desired outcomes that result.

Mature, intelligent leaders have mature emotions. They control their emotional responses and shape them in ways that make them more passionate, motivated, and hopeful in their work.

Mature emotions result from healthy beliefs, solid characters, well-defined supportive values, and positive thoughts. These qualities define sturdy, mature inner-cores on which leaders can rely for enhanced leadership effectiveness.

Positive and negative thinking patterns are self-perpetuating. Engaging in positive thinking is essential for leaders to build solid inner cores that serve as sturdy foundations for inspirational and highly effective leadership skills.

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