How to See the Bad and Pursue the Good

Confronting things you don’t like is part of leadership. Whining and complaining is not.

It takes real leadership to see the bad and pursue the good.


If you aren’t careful, you become a spiraling vortex of negativity. Leaders who end up as black-holes began with intentions to help.

Beware the gap between intent and impact.

3 sources of spiraling negativity:

  1. Bad is stronger than good. (Reference)
  2. Your loud inner critic gets worried when it doesn’t have something to complain about.
  3. Talking about something magnifies its importance. Words are rudders. 


The more you talk about what’s wrong, the more important it becomes. Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, wrote, “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.”

4 ways to pursue the good:

  1. Eliminate jerks and bossholes. Eliminating the bad is more important than accentuating the positive, because bad is stronger than good. (“Scaling Up Excellence,” by Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao.)
  2. Adopt a “Bob the Builder” approach. Ask, “Can we fix this?” Wait for a, “Yes.” Our brains can’t resist trying to fix something after we say, “Yes,” to Bob’s question. (“To Sell is Human,” Daniel Pink)
  3. Use a 1 to 10 scale to explore the positive side. Ask negative team members to rank on a scale of 1 to 10 their commitment to make change. Follow up by asking why they didn’t choose a lower number. For example, “How committed are you to this project?” They might say, “3.” You ask, “Why didn’t you choose a lower number?”
  4. Redefine the future. Ask, “If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?”

Distracted leaders know what they don’t want and forget what they want.

What behaviors might leaders employ that counteract the downward drag of negativity in organizations?