The Leader’s Attitude is The Team’s Attitude

Displaying a positive or “can do” attitude in all circumstances.

Circumstances don’t choose our attitudes, we do. Combat veterans know this is true. But, you don’t have to be a combat veteran to understand this truth. The movies and TV shows available to us show us how many soldiers deal with ongoing tough circumstances. They find humor in the places they can. Why? Because the need for simple joys and laughter—matters. This is why Positivity is key for any leader.

During my time in the field, I can say that the sense of humor developed in a war zone can be unique to say the least. The laughter is not a polite chuckle. These are belly laughs. Hard, body shaking, stress-reducing belly laughs.

I have discovered that a leader’s reaction to their circumstances will determine the team’s reaction to those circumstances. Two teams who have the same mission—under the same circumstances—can behave very differently.

I saw this during my time as a forward observer in Operation Desert Storm. Two Fire Support Teams faced the prospects of combat very differently. One team laughed a lot, trained hard and was sought after for special missions. The other team fought with each other, complained about training and were not trusted by upper headquarters. The individuals on each team were similar in capabilities. But as a whole, these teams were different. What was the distinguishing factor? It came down to their attitudes.

The high functioning team had a leader who came back from meetings and filled everyone in on the plans for the next day. He answered questions, cracked jokes and made sure everyone understood expectations. The other leader only met with his second in command. He expected his second in command to pass on his message to the troops. When he did address the soldiers, his messages were always tinged with dire warnings and veiled threats about what could happen if they failed.

The General always challenged me: “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” When I think of those two teams. I can see how The General was right.

The attitude of the team reflects the attitude of the leader. Leaders must ask themselves, “What example am I setting for everyone else?” If a leader is focused on what could go wrong, the team—or even a family—will probably focus on the same things. If a leader continuously sees the world as a place of potential failure—the team will as well.

Using fear, especially the fear of failure, as a motivator is a recipe to develop a selfish, disengaged and mediocre team. In the long run, nobody will stay motivated when a leader’s attitude is fixed solely on avoiding failure.

The truth is—avoiding failure is healthy. But a fixation on it should not be the key point of someone’s leadership style. The key to a positive team attitude is for the leader to exercise Positivity.

Does that leader focus on the problems or the possibilities? Does she find people doing the right things and praise those behaviors or does she just make corrections? Does he laugh at himself or does he take himself to seriously? Does she choose her own attitude or does she allow the circumstances to choose it for her?

This reminds me of a moment in the movie, “Remember the Titans.” The two best players on the same team tensely face off after practice one day. A pivotal moment occurs when the team captain calls out Julius’ attitude. Julius’ response was, “Attitude reflects leadership, Captain.”

Our team’s and our family’s attitudes are a reflection of the our attitude. Whether we lead in combat, on the football field or during difficult times at home—every leader has a choice. Do we choose our attitude or do the circumstances choose for us? Whatever our choice—our teams will follow our example.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • When have you seen a leader’s attitude impact the team’s attitude?

  • How can you make a positive attitude contagious on your team?

Exercising Positivity takes work and is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Positivity daily, which is why we have created FREE tools and resources to guide your journey.

To make it easy to keep the definition of Positivity visible on your screens and devices, we would like to share our FREE Positivity backgrounds for desktop and mobile available for download at: https://www.becomingaleaderofcharacter.com/tools-resources


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