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Thoughts of a CEO | The Positive Leader

Thoughts of a CEO | The Positive Leader


I have written before about the value of optimism, the power of creative thinking and agility in the face of adversity. At the Gift Awards in May, we celebrated the dedicated optimism shown by our beloved industry as new brands, innovative products and sustainable developments were introduced to us. So far this year, I have visited over 70 trade events throughout the UK and some overseas as well, and as we manoeuvre our way through the final quarter of the year, I wanted to provide my thoughts about positivity.


One of the key roles of a CEO has to be cultivating optimism in themselves, their teams and, in the case of an association like ours, in their members as well. There is a universal benefit to being positive, even against the greatest adversity for positivity allows for options and opportunity. I saw a great quote the other day that said, “Pessimists may be right in the end, but optimists have a much better time getting there.” I am not writing today to provide a justification for pessimism, of course. Today is about insight into how to cultivate positivity and trust.


Focus on what you can control


During chaotic and busy times, one way to be more positive it to focus on what we can control. There is so much that sits beyond this point - the moves your competitors make, the thoughts and beliefs of your colleagues, changes in the marketplace. There remains so much that we can control, however, and this is where true leadership is recognised. Your effort, your attitude, your energy is all within your control and lead to strong results–creating a self-propagating loop of positive thinking and outcomes.


Focus on your purpose


For me, no matter how busy I am at work, focusing on my purpose is enough to drive me on with positivity. I am absolutely focused on the mission of the Giftware Association to provide the most effective, relevant, and meaningful support for our members to be able to grow. If I know that I am working towards this mission, then I can lead my team and guide our members in the most effective and inspirational way.


Tune out the noise and focus on what you can solve


There is a brilliant podcast by Tim Ferris that I have started listening to and if you are yet to discover him, then please make a point of doing so - incredible content and so much around the role of leaders. Tim Ferris advocates completing a key, solvable task first thing provides a boost of positivity that can lift your attitude throughout the day and help bolster a more positive mindset.


Be positive, but not delusional


Leaders, as one CEO noted, need to be positive, but be wary of coming across as delusional. Positive leaders accept and communicate that a situation isn’t great but put a positive spin on it. I am not talking about the Liz Truss approach to leadership here. As her agonisingly and destructively short tenure showed us, people will see through leaders who are delusional, so be sure to ground positive thinking in the reality of the situation – the point of the next tip.


I want to shift focus slightly at this point and reflect upon a famous quite by the CEO of Fedex, Frederick Wilson, who said, “Leaders get out in front and stay there by raising the standards by which they judge themselves - and by which they are willing to be judged.”


Lead from the front


I mentioned our mission earlier and this underpins everything. We have to stay at the front of our industry so that we can support, educate and enable success for our members. We are constantly judged, particularly when times are hard, so our positioning and value must be up to that scrutiny. We are constantly asking ourselves, ‘what else do our members look to us for’ and this was at the centre of our recent strategy day with our National Committee.


Education, education, education


In the spirit, therefore, of looking forward, planning ahead, and leading from the front, therefore, I am thrilled to give you a little insight into a big project we are undertaking in 2023: the introduction of an interactive, highly personalised and relevant education portal for our members on our website. We will be the only place you need to go for learning, professional development, signposting to support and more. Excited? I know we are. You will have to watch this space to find out more…


That just leaves me to say, thank you for all the amazing conversations I have had with you all at events, during mentoring sessions and on the phone over the past few months. I can safely say, that despite the turbulent political landscape, businesses in our industry are remaining resiliently positive and working collaboratively for a strong future. I am very proud to be the CEO of your industry body.


Until next time,

Sarah x

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