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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.