Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Building a Leadership Attitude

Attitude. Webster defines it as “a mental feeling…,” others suggest it is our manner, disposition, or thoughts about something. I suggest that there is no more important word for those of us who think of ourselves as leaders.

Have you ever known someone who is almost always happy and confident? Someone who sees the glass as half full? We all have. How about the opposite kind of person – someone who is angry and cynical? Which of these people would you rather have on your team? Which one would you rather be?

The answer is obvious… below are five thoughts about becoming more confident and positive by building a leadership attitude.

Make yourself a priority

We live in a busy world. We all have family, friends, work, and other commitments that keep us active on a daily basis. Perhaps time is a luxury you feel you just can’t afford. But if you want to build a leadership attitude, you must find time for yourself.

Did you know that the average person spends 26 years sleeping, 12 years in meetings, nine years watching TV, seven years driving, six years eating, five years waiting in lines, four years doing housework, and two years returning phone calls? With an average life expectancy of 78 years, you have only seven years to do things solely for you… you better get busy.

For the next 30 days set aside time during the day to focus on you and your leadership attitude. Spend time in the morning strengthening and preparing yourself for the day by listing what you want to accomplish, catching up on your reading list, or simply spending time in thought about your upcoming day. Use time in the middle of the day to reaffirm your priorities and to make sure you are on track for the day. Finally, spend time in the evening reviewing the positive events of the day and reflecting on what you could do differently. The key is to make yourself a priority.

Set realistic goals

I’m sure you will agree that those of us who have identified goals are often more successful than those who have not. This reminds me of a survey that was conducted of graduates of Yale University in the 1950s. One of the questions asked “Do you have written goals?” It is said that only three percent of the class responded in the affirmative. A follow-up survey of these same graduates twenty years later revealed that those with written goals had incomes greater than the other 97 percent of the class combined.

Setting goals is not a new idea for leaders. But doing so in a realistic manner is what’s important. This requires that you know what you want to accomplish, when you want to accomplish it, and how you will measure your success. It take more than simply stating the goals, you must refer to them regularly to ensure that you are working towards successful completion. Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goals, not it reaching them.”

Pay attention to your health

Well-being and physical health are important aspects of one’s leadership attitude. This encompasses three areas of particular importance: diet, exercise, and nurturing.

As for your diet, what you choose to put in your body is your business. However, the old adage holds true that “You are what you eat.” By eating healthy and avoiding the excesses afforded by this world, you are more likely to have a healthy attitude.

Exercise is good for your leadership attitude. If you have ever been involved in any type of regular exercise program, you know how much physical effort can make you feel better and provide you more energy for doing all that needs to be done in a day. The next time you are feeling angry or cynical, try exercising… exhaust yourself in a good workout. You will be amazed at how that bad attitude is flushed away from your system.

If you are like most people, nurturing is an area that is suffering some neglect. You must nurture yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Take time to slow down enough to savor a sensory experience. For instance, take the time to eat a really great meal slowly – savoring every taste and texture. Maybe leave work early one beautiful afternoon and spend some time walking in the woods to clear your head. Whatever you do, enjoy life and life’s little pleasures.

Know your strengths

Too often we spend time thinking about those areas in our life where we are unsuccessful… where we could use some improvement. We all have weaknesses and sometimes these are abundantly clear. However, we all have strengths as well. What you focus on in your mind is what you give power to. Maybe focus some of that energy on what you do well.

Take a few moments right now to write down your strengths. How many did you come up with? Did you get stuck after listing only a few strengths? Many of us do get stuck after a few because we are trained to be humble. We are more adept at thinking about those areas in which we can improve. It’s time to stop being humble and to begin to be honest with ourselves and focus on our strengths. Try it!

Be positive

There are those of us who believe the world is out to get them. Don’t let yourself fall into this deception. The world is not out to get you. Despite what happens, it is important to see the positive side of the events happening in your life. As the maxim suggests, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

If the lemon in your life is that you just lost your job, the lemonade is that you can now find something you really want to do. It is turning the negative into a positive. Think about something negative that has recently happened… now, think about how this can be a positive event in your life. The positive is there, it just may be hard to see at the moment. Keep trying until you master the idea of seeing the positive side of every event.

One of my favorite films for teaching leadership lessons is Remember the Titans. One particular scene I especially like is when the two stars of the team are talking about attitude and Julius says “attitude reflects leadership.” What I have listed are a few simple attitude adjustments that we can make to better reflect the leaders we want to be. As 2013 gets underway, it’s up to you to build a better leadership attitude. I leave you with the words of Martin Luther King quoting a Georgia preacher, “Them that’s going, get on the wagon. Them that ain’t, get out of the way.”