One day, a pedestrian stopped to admire the skill of two men who were laying bricks. She asked the first bricklayer, “What are you making?” In a somewhat gruff voice, the bricklayer responded, “About $20.00 an hour.” At a loss for words, the pedestrian stepped over to the next bricklayer and asked, “Say, what are you making?” The second bricklayer happily replied, “I’m making the greatest cathedral in the world!”1 Same activity, same question, two totally different responses. A positive attitude will change one’s total perspective of something, and a good leader chooses to see problems as opportunities to do great things versus mere labor.
Leadership is a daily process, not a destination. Before you can effectively lead others, you must first lead yourself. In other words, a strong leader leads by example and knows their personal character will set the tone for everyone else. You must "walk the talk" and consistently display the character traits required by everyone to ensure success. Dependability, patience, self-discipline, integrity, confidence and a strong work ethic become daily expectations of you. Others cannot be expected to do what you are unwilling to do, and a good leader knows a consistent, high level of character is critical, whether one “feels” like it every day or not. Character can’t be faked. One’s character is reflected when no one is watching, and others will see through insincerity.
Not only should effective leaders set the bar of expectation, they should try to do “a little bit more” and consistently exceed expectations each and every time. Most people tend to value how others make them feel and will attempt to acquire the feelings they desire by associating themselves with those who exhibit them. We like to be around others who make us feel better about ourselves. By accepting a leadership role, you commit to a higher standard, one that not only requires a strong character but also demands a positive attitude.
If you have ever ridden a roller coaster, you know a wide variety of attitudes are exhibited on any given ride. Some close their eyes, hold on for dear life, and can’t wait for the ride to be over, while others ride with eyes wide open, arms outstretched, and love every second. Same ride, two entirely different emotional responses, but those in the latter group typically take the lead by sitting up front.
Attitude is a game changer. It often reflects the tone of leadership and dictates the response to failure. Babe Ruth had to strike out 1,330 times in order to hit 714 home runs (both once records in professional baseball) and lead the Yankees to multiple championships;2 Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job for a lack of creative ideas;3 Thomas Edison was pulled out of school as a child after his schoolmaster called him “addle-minded” and “slow;”4 Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots in his career, lost 300 games, and missed 26 final game-winning shots on his way leading the Bulls to six NBA championships;5 and Lee Iacocca, having been fired from Ford after 32 years of service, went on to lead Chrysler back to success after the company was on the brink of bankruptcy.6
Attitude is an outward expression of the heart. If you truly want others to be successful, maintaining a consistent positive attitude is paramount. People can easily become discouraged by any one of a large number of aspects in their lives. A positive attitude by those in charge – as well as the creation of a positive environment – can help them overcome those feelings and develop a renewed sense of energy. Strong leaders strive to exhibit a positive attitude every day to help others exhibit one on most days.
For my next few posts, I will be focusing on leadership and its role in bringing out the creative best in people.
- Zabloski, J. (1996). The 25 Most Common Problems in Business (and How Jesus Solved Them). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
- Babe Ruth. Retrieved December 3, 2010, from the Baseball-Reference website: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ruthba01.shtml
- Rosner, B. (2005, February 25). Working Wounded: Getting Pink Slipped. Retrieved December 3, 2010, from the ABC News website: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/WorkingWounded/story?id=547848
- Beals, G. (1999). The Biography of Thomas Edison. Retrieved December 3, 2010, from the Thomas Edison website: http://www.thomasedison.com/biography.html
- Michael Jordan Quotes. Retrieved December 3, 2010, from the Brainy Quote website: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/michaeljor127660.html
- Lee Iacocca. Retrieved December 3, 2010, from the Encyclopedia of World Biography website: http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ho-Jo/Iacocca-Lee.html