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Attitude Determines Altitude

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

Good leaders earn the confidence of others; great leaders inspire others with confidence in themselves. – Michael Josephson

Your attitude decides your altitude in business and life. You cannot change someone else’s attitude for them. But this powerful adage is an excellent reminder that you can put in front of anyone who needs an attitude adjustment. I want to talk about a few ways each of us can develop a winning attitude every day. It is what leaders do. 

Marcus Aurelius, the great philosopher who ruled the Roman Empire, said: Our life is what our thoughts make it. 

Dale Carnegie, speaking to that quote, said: Yes, if we think happy thoughts, we will be satisfied. If we feel sad thoughts, we will be miserable. If we think we fear thoughts, we will be fearful. If we think sickly thoughts, we will be ill. If we think of failure, we will undoubtedly fail. If we wallow in self-pity, everyone will want to shun and avoid us. 

Am I advocating a Pollyanna attitude toward all our problems? No. Life is not that simple. But I am supporting in the strongest terms that we assume a cheerful outlook instead of a negative one. 

Mental attitude – the power we hold in our heads. Reality can be changed dramatically by a single thought. In nutrition, the adage is that you are what you eat. In terms of leadership, you are more likely what you think. Contrary to what people want to believe, outside influences do not usually decide your happiness or success; instead, how we react to those influences, good or bad. So how do you change your reactions to those outside forces? 

Make how you react a conscious priority, which means practicing daily. 

Humor is vital to keep everything in perspective and relax when things are not going your way. I laugh. Others throw up their hands. Whole industries get very cynical. 

Positive self-confident feelings help you achieve more and make others want to be associated with you. People are drawn to others with an upbeat outlook and a can-do attitude. Constant complainers do not collect an easy following. 

Positive self-confident feelings help you achieve more and make others want to be associated with you. People are drawn to others with an upbeat outlook and accountant complainers who do not collect an easy following. 

One of the leader’s most important jobs is to set an optimistic and self-confident tone exuding that failure is not an option. A cheerful outlook is the cornerstone of leadership. It is the same confidence that a quarterback, a golfer, or a tennis star projects every time they come out of the locker room. 

To gain strength from the positive and not be sapped by the negative, here are a few ideas: 

Focus on the 90% of your team who will run with your vision and plan – do not let the “negative nellies” drain you or poison your team. 

Tap your spiritual essence at work, too – use your spirit and heart to move you and your career forward. 

Break the negative energy cycle if you see yourself spiraling down or in a rut, mix it up, break up the routine, and do something fast that lifts you. When you visit one of your team members in a channel of unproductive or unprofessional behavior, address it, and do not let it fester. 

Active listening takes time. Work at it to hear what your team wants. Often just by being listened to, problems can go away, and people make a big turnaround. 

You must be the emotional manager of your office – not your assistant, not the new hotshot you just hired. Parents must be the enthusiastic manager in a family, or chaos rules the home. In your business, you must wear that mantel, albeit reluctantly at times. It is part of your leadership role and power. Hone it and your reactions to external events; you will see the culture around you shift to the positive. 

Jim Collins points out in Good to Great: When in doubt, do not hire. Keep looking. You cannot grow revenues consistently faster than your ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company. So, unless candidates for the open position have that can-do attitude and are a strong fit for your company in who they are, do not hire them. The skills can be taught; the and-then-some cheerful outlook cannot. 

As Doug Emerson said: The prerequisite is attitude. Attitude is the one thing we cannot change in employees. You have a good attitude, or you do not. Given adequate ability and desire to learn, employees with good attitudes can be taught everything else. I have tried to teach good attitudes and concluded it is about as easy as making a mud fence. 

A negative attitude will pull you down and, with it, your professional results. A cheerful outlook will pull you over the rough spots and energize you to lift your results to new heights to match your vision. Whether you need an attitude adjustment a couple of times a day, once a week, or only occasionally, never forget that your attitude decides your altitude. Do not let outside people or events bring yours down.

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