Why Faking Positivity is No Good for Agency Leaders

Jul 18, 2019 | 0 comments

We all know positivity is a good thing. Optimism has been shown to improve mental and physical well-being and bolster our resilience and chances of success. Optimism encourages us to press on through challenging times with the belief that it will get better. Clearly, positivity is a quality you want in your leaders.

However, even more than positivity, leaders need to be honest, authentic, and maybe even vulnerable at times. You can be optimistic without being unrealistically positive or having that expectation of your employees. Authenticity trumps positivity, which is why faking positivity can be bad for you and your agency.

The Problem With Faking Positivity

No one wants to be a downer, but pretending everything is okay when it most definitely is not doesn’t do your team any favors. Your team will know you’re hiding something, and you’ll lose their trust. You may also lose their respect. Hard times are a part of life, and as this Fortune article says, good leaders “show that it’s ok to be human”:

Real people aren’t perfect all the time. Showing your team that you’re human helps them understand that you’re more than just a boss. By being transparent about your mistakes and the lessons you’ve learned over your career you can foster stronger teams and a culture of selflessness, where work politics takes a back seat to what’s best for the company, customer and team.

Non-stop positivity is not the thing that will lead you to success. Instead, vulnerability and trust among your team will drive your innovation and growth.

When trust and respect are lost, cohesion and loyalty disappear, too. In an environment of fake positivity, you’re likely to experience less productivity and more employee turnover. Furthermore, with an increased focus on mental health in the workplace, it’s important to acknowledge there’s no expectation for people to be happy all the time—or to pretend they are. For someone suffering with stress or depression, that type of attitude can be especially detrimental.

In the end, we want what’s real, even if it’s not perfect. Your team wants to know what they’re dealing with in terms of what’s happening with your agency. They need to know you trust them with the truth, even if it’s a little ugly at times. Showing them your human side—sometimes you have bad days, sometimes things aren’t perfect in your life but you can still get the job done—builds trust.

How Negative Emotions Can Serve You and Your Agency

Being human means feeling a whole lot of feelings—even the not-so-much-fun ones. That’s a good thing, because negative emotions have a lot to teach us.

To begin with, how can you know what makes you happy if you’re not aware of what makes you sad or angry? There needs to be contrast in the world, and that includes our feelings. It helps us narrow down what’s important.

Negative emotions are indicators of what you don’t like or what isn’t right for you. If a client fails to communicate about desired changes in their plan, and then gets angry when the changes weren’t delivered, you might get angry, too. That’s your indication that this is not the type of client you want to work with in the future. You may decide not to accept clients who exhibit warning signs of poor communication or lack of respect. Because of that, you have more clients you enjoy working with and—guess what?—a naturally more positive workplace.

If you’re feeling anxious or uneasy about a certain job, it’s an invitation to look more closely at it. What are you afraid of? Are you missing some key resources? Are you having doubts about a particular employee? That might inspire you to take action: hire someone who can help or offer additional training to the employee you’re doubting.

Being open about your true feelings—your humanness—can help your employees feel safe doing the same. When they have doubts and fears, they can be encouraged to bring them to you rather than hiding behind them. That opens the doors to solutions and empowerment.

Becoming the Leader You Want to Be

Even if you’ve used fake positivity as a leadership tactic in the past, it’s not too late to turn things around. Leaders continuously grow and change, and part of that is recognizing when something like fake positivity isn’t working. Agency Leader Transformation Coaching can help you move past plateaus or ignite a personal or company-wide transformation. Feel free to contact me with any questions about that works.

We live in an Instagram world, where you can scroll through fake positivity for hours. As creative and tech agency leaders, it’s time to get real again. None of us have it all together all the time. Let’s own our feelings and lead by example, and see if it doesn’t inspire growth, trust, commitment, and genuine optimism within your team.

Agency Leaders Start Here »

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Kelly L. Campbell

Kelly (they/she) is a Trauma-Informed Conscious Leadership Coach to self-aware visionaries, a keynote speaker and a sponsored podcast host. They are the founder of Consciousness Leaders, the world’s most diverse speaker’s agency. Her debut book on trauma and leadership, entitled Heal to Lead, will be available Spring 2024 (Wiley). Sign up for pre-launch notifications here.


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