Attitude : The leader’s compass

work salesmen“Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness  and control this great force.” — Tom Blandi


Even aircraft have it. It is one of the essential cockpit instruments required to successfully navigate the skies and safely land the aircraft. Without an attitude indicator, attaining or maintaining a particular altitude in the skies would be impossible. No wonder the popular saying that a man’s attitude will also determine his altitude in life. Our attitude is not just an indicator of the direction of our lives, it may jolly well be its pilot. One divine endowment that makes us different from animals is the power of choice which enables us to significantly design and determine the course of our lives.

With banks and investors threatening to pull the plugs on the financing of his ‘ridiculous’ and seemingly endless research ventures, Thomas Edison’s primary concern was trying to convince them to cut him some slack with a promise that things would be better in the days ahead. One day, in the middle of the night, he was alerted to a raging fire that in his laboratory. Before anyone could do anything about it, the fire had engulfed the entire laboratory and the assortment of chemical compounds in the laboratory only served to fuel the sinister inferno. Not a few people knew about Edison’s running battle with his financiers. So it was natural for them to feel sorry for Edison. Except Edison himself who appeared enthralled by the sight. As the flames raged in what seemed to be a pyrotechnic panoply of colours, he ran back to his house and called out to his wife, “Honey, come and see the laboratory on fire. The flames are so beautiful. You never know if we would have the privilege of seeing any sight this beautiful again”! One by one, those feeling sorry for him left. Not too long thereafter, the laboratory was rebuilt.

In the mid-1900s, a couple moved into a new neighbourhood where the legendary motivator and inspirational speaker Earl Nightingale lived. A few months later, Earl Nightingale saw that the couple was moving out of the community. According to the man, his wife could not stand the neighbourhood because the women were too cold and had never asked her to join in any of the community’s activities. Earl’s response was simple. “Did your wife ever indicate that she was interested in participating in any activity?”

“No”, the man replied, “she was waiting to be asked”. To which Earl replied, “Well, since she chose to stay indoors for most of the time, the women in the neighbourhood must have taken that to mean that she is a recluse who does not like making friends and so, they left her alone!” After some reflective moments of silence, the man said, “You know, that is exactly what happened.”

Joe’s eight-year old grandson was on a visit to his grandparents. One day while Joe was asleep, the boy decided to play a prank on his grandfather. The little boy had an undying fascination to Joe’s moustache and he always loved to play with it. On this particular day, as his grandpa slept, he took some mozzarella cheese and rubbed it on the moustache. Joe was aroused from sleep by the unpleasant smell of the cheese but he had no idea where it was coming from. As he opened his eyes, he let out a yawn and exclaimed, “The whole world stinks!”

The three stories above underscore the importance of attitude in our daily conduct and interactions with others.

Have you ever looked into a deep well? What did you see? A reflection of you in the water no doubt. If you say anything into the well, it simply sends it back to you. That experience is what our attitude can be compared to.

Attitude has been defined as “the position or bearing as indicating action, feeling or mood.” While we may think that our attitude is personal to us, what we often fail to understand is that our attitude is our mirror. But beyond that, it is akin to an echo chamber. It simply sends back to us in an amplified format, what we send out to it. Attitude is the precursor of conduct. Our attitude is a prophecy of our life outcomes. No one with a good attitude ever has a bad day and to the man with a bad attitude, even when the stench is from his own moustache, the whole world stinks.

The universe is indifferent in its response to our attitude. What you give is what you get. Give excuses for non-performance and you get an unproductive life. You cannot exude a negative attitude and expect everyone around you to be upbeat in their response to you. The people most likely to get ahead in life are people who easily get along with others. This is the reason why the most successful politicians and captains of industry are not the best products of Ivy League universities. In the enterprise of life, attitude trumps aptitude. I would rather hire a man with a low IQ but a good attitude who is willing to learn and grow than hire one with awe-inspiring aptitude but who comes across as brash, arrogant and unteachable.

A leader’s attitude will shape the direction of the organization that he leads. This is why true leadership has more to do with a disposition than a position occupied. A costly suit on an empty mind is wearing authentic jewelry on a pig. A man in a position bigger than his mind will soon reduce the position to the level of his mind

What happens to us is never the problem. It is what happens in us. Until we allow the water to get into our boats, we will survive the storm. When a man has a positive outlook to life, nothing in the environment fazes him. Attitude is the difference between seeing the glass as half-full or half-empty. It is the dividing line between seeing dark clouds or seeing a silver lining.

With the financial challenges confronting him at the time and the eventual loss of his laboratory, Thomas Edison could have gone over the brink and sunk into a depression or even contemplated suicide. But with the kind of upbeat attitude he displayed, it was only a matter of time before he bounced back. Many of us are like Earl’s neighbour’s wife. We stay in our little corner and expect the rest of the world to suck it up to us and come crawling to kiss the feet of our “Ever-sulking Imperial Wet Blanket”! Trying to elicit a great response from people when you have fouled the atmosphere with a bad attitude is like sowing poisonous seeds and praying for crop failure at harvest time!

From time to time, if we desire to make progress, we all need an attitude check. If a leader fails to check his attitude, his attitude may turn round to checkmate him!

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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