My favorite all time movie is “Remember The Titans”. Based on a true story, the movie is about a couple of football coaches in Virginia that successfully navigate through desegregation in the early 1970’s to bring a group of high school football players together to change not only their school, but a community. While I think coach Herman Boone, portrayed by Denzel Washington, is a modern day hero for what he led in that school and community, it is an interaction between two players that I will forever remember. The interaction takes place during a volatile period where the team is divided along racial lines and the two “leaders” confront one another. “Gary – the team captain” tells “Julius” that his attitude is terrible and that is the main issue with the team. “Julius” responds that attitude reflects leadership.
That comment is not only a powerful point in the movie, but a great reminder to all of us that lead people. It causes me to stop and self-evaluate how my attitude or demeanor may be impacting others. I too often want to just blame others for their attitude, but I wonder how I might be impacting those folks; either by causing their current attitude or by not leading in a manner that would help that individual.
Rather than just suggest that we all be more aware of the “attitude reflects leadership” comment, let’s take a look at some ways that our leadership effectiveness could be impacted by circumstances and how we can navigate through those challenges to be a more effective leader:
- The Frustrated Leader:
Sometimes things don’t go as you want and you find yourself frustrated. That’s definitely happened to all of us at one time or another. I would suggest to be sure we are asking the right questions and working on the right things. Frustration often comes from not seeing the results we want over a period of time and that oftentimes can impact not only our leadership, but the attitudes of those we are leading. Let me illustrate it in this manner: Before we keep running that same play trying to get that first down unsuccessfully on possession after possession, let’s stop and be sure everyone is blocking the right folks. Sometimes just asking the right question can change the approach and relieve the stress.
Be sure you are asking the right questions
- The Worn Out Leader
Sometimes leaders can just be tired and find themselves running on empty. I know we have found ourselves to be more irritable and short with folks when we are tired or mentally/emotionally drained. Leadership is tough and can be wearing on anyone at times. The more responsibility and level of influence, the greater the potential to suffer burnout, fatigue, or just wear out. You have to take care of yourself first. You can’t lead others if you are running on empty. Let me illustrate it in this manner: We have all heard the flight attendant explain the oxygen bag process of taking care of yourself before taking care of small children or those needing assistance. Can you imagine how hard that would be for a parent, but how essential it would be to follow those directions. We can’t be helpful to others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first. We lead and influence others out of the overflow of our lives. Plan time to get rest. Listen to folks that inspire and encourage you. Get away when you need to, get some rest, and build yourself up regularly.
Be sure you take care of yourself.
- The Overwhelmed Leader
Finally, aren’t we all prone to lose perspective at times? We lose sight of our true focus because of outside influences and challenging circumstances. Those issues can no doubt lead to frustration. That frustration impacts everyone around us. To combat this loss of perspective, we need to ensure we have clearly defined purpose in our lives and that purpose needs to be focused on “who” and not just “what”. If we can stay grounded in that purpose, we tend to maintain focus and not lose perspective. The proper perspective in leadership allows us to remain calm, stay on course, and provide solid leadership even in the midst of a “storm”.
Be sure you stay focused on your purpose
While I agree that attitude is the one thing everyone has complete control of every day, I do agree with Julius that leaders can have a great deal of impact on the attitudes of those they lead. The more engaging we are as leaders, the more the culture changes in the plant, and the better the overall attitudes are in the plant. While we are engaging, be sure we are aware of the above factors as those can undermine our efforts if we aren’t careful.