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How to Lead with Attitude – Part 1

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in several interviews with young people looking to advance their careers and move into formal leadership positions.

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Last week I had the pleasure of participating in several interviews with young people looking to advance their careers and move into formal leadership positions. During the interviews I could hear Herb Kelleher’s famous quote in my head, “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” All of the final applicants had proven to have great attitudes – so now we needed to train them.

One of the candidates did something few candidates do – she asked for advice. We each gave suggestions and I reminded her to learn to delegate. Up until now she had been a solo performer on a team and was mostly responsible for achieving individual outcomes. Now she will be responsible for the achievements of the whole team. She will need to focus on helping her team members be successful rather than just herself. She can help them be successful by delegating duties to them, especially ones they do well.

As John Maxwell has said, “Leaders have to give up to go up.”

What I Should Have Said. With hindsight I realize now I blew the question. I should have said, “Remember every day to use your positive attitude to inspire your team.” That is the first job of every leader.

Attitude is a Compounding Variable.

The Stanford Research Institute concludes that only 12.5% of your success is based on your product or service knowledge and 87.5% on how well you get along with people. And I think “attitude” drives most of that 87.5%. As a leader we need to remember that attitude can make or break our team’s success – both our own attitude and the attitude of individual team members.

Attitude is contagious and spreads when it comes in contact with other people. A positive attitude increases success. A leader’s positive attitude at the beginning of a new initiative or change has the largest impact on whether or not a group will be successful.

And negative attitude spreads faster than positive attitude. A leader must identify bad attitude, try to help the owner of it change, and, if unsuccessful, move the person out. If you don’t remove a rotten apple from its barrel, the whole barrel soon will be rotten.

Recognizing Poor Attitude.

In John Maxwell’s book Attitude 101 he reminds us that because poor attitude is so subjective we often don’t deal with it. When we observe it in others we think it might just be us, other people might like the person. But, we are usually right.

Maxwell says, “People always project on the outside how they feel on the inside. Attitude is really about who the person is. That overflows into how he acts.” Maxwell goes on to suggest that a leader watch for these six symptoms of rotten behavior that will infect a team’s spirit:

  1. Inability to admit a mistake – this is the person who always says it was someone else’s fault.
  2. Failing to forgive someone – this is the person who holds a grudge and can’t let go.
  3. Petty jealousy – this is the person who gets upset when another gets recognized. “It’s not fair.”
  4. The disease of me – this person believes they are more important than everyone else. They may not say anything, but this belief affects how they interact with others.
  5. A critical spirit – this is the person who finds fault with everyone else’s ideas and actions.
  6. A desire to hog all the credit – this person always lets you know what they did and that the team’s success was because of them.

In Part 2 of this Blog, I’ll explore what you can do to try to help someone change who has a poor attitude.

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