Optimism is a wonderful trait and I share that outlook on life. It is an outlook that sees the best, believes that barriers can be overcome and that God and we can do great things. Who wants to work for a pessimist! After all, we work for a God who can do far more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Sometimes, however, optimism can become a handicap just as any strength can become a weakness if not managed well. Optimism as an outlook on life is a positive trait. There are many situations we face as leaders, however, that require realism more than optimism.
Take a staff situation where there is regular under performance. My optimism may get in the way of critical evaluation and understanding that unless something is done, the staff member will likely not succeed. Simply wanting them to succeed does not make it so. Realism is required to figure out the cause of the performance problem and resolve it.
Optimistic leaders often overlook the difficulty of getting something done by their staff. In their "gung ho" spirit they can simply assume that the requests they are making are easy to carry out when in fact they may may be causing a great deal of difficulty as staff scramble to meet their expectations. Often they need a dose of realism to understand the impact of their requests.
Highly optimistic leaders often assume that the results of their ministry are significant when in fact they can be simply marginal. Why? Because in their optimism they neglect to take a realistic look at what is actually happening. Optimism should never be a substitute for realistic evaluation.
I would much rather be an optimistic leader than the alternative. But I must also be a realistic leader if I am going to lead well.