Avoid this mistake if you want to be a better leader

I made this mistake this morning. 

I turned on the news before my morning routine. 

I have a love/hate relationship with the news. I like to stay informed. At the same time, the news is mostly negative. 

Starting your day with negative news leads to negative emotions. 

In their book, Switch, Chip & Dan Heath write:

“Negative emotions tend to have a ‘narrowing effect’ on our thoughts. If your body is tensing up as you walk through a dark alley, your mind isn’t likely to wander over to tomorrow’s to-do list . . . In contrast with the narrowing effects of negative emotions, positive emotions are designed to ‘broaden and build’ our repertoire of thoughts and actions.

Most of the big problems we encounter in organizations or society are ambiguous and evolving. . . To solve these problems, we need to encourage (positive emotions) which encourage open minds, creativity, and hope.”

In addition to Heath’s work, this insight is backed-up by scholarly research. Negative emotions narrow our focus putting us in a trap of limited possibilities. 

In the rapidly evolving landscape of modern leadership, this trap is catastrophic.   

I have a ways to go to develop these habits, but here are some tips I am practicing to move towards a more positive mindset. 

  • Avoid the news and social media before noon. If something dramatic happens, you will find out.
  • Feel gratitude.  Write three things you are grateful for each day on a sticky note, (Thank you, 3M!) and post it where you will see it throughout the day. 
  • Express gratitude. Handwrite a note to someone expressing thanks. 
  • Walk a half-step quicker with your head up. This conveys that you are “going somewhere,” and you will notice more of your surroundings, which opens your mind to possibilities.
  • Focus your final thoughts. Hal Elrod points out that the thoughts you end your day with are typically the thoughts that will begin the next.                                                                        


With all the chaos in our world, we can believe that our efforts do not matter. My life experience has taught me that everyday leaders (coaches, teachers, parents, pastors, etc.) have impacted me more than anyone in LA, DC, or NY. 

Your leadership matters more than you realize!

Brian Rutherford
Director of Content & Product Strategy

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Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is Director of Content and Product Strategy for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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