My question for you today is a simple one: “How’s Your Attitude?” Show me a CEO with a bad attitude and I’ll show you a poor leader. While this sounds simple enough at face value, I have consistently found one of the most often overlooked leadership attributes is having a consistently positive attitude. As a CEO, how can you expect to inspire, motivate, engender confidence, and to lead with a lousy attitude? The simple answer is that you can’t – it just won’t work. In today’s post I’ll examine the importance of CEOs having a positive attitude…
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to watch one of my clients deliver a keynote at a national conference, and while I expected nothing less than an outstanding presentation, what I ended-up witnessing was a true masterclass in the contagious, inspirational power that comes from positive leadership. What made this presentation so powerful was it was more than just an act put on for the benefit of the attendees, it was completely authentic and the audience knew it. This is a relatively new client, but I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, his positivity sets the tone for the entire organization and has produced incredible results. Let me be clear – don’t underestimate the power of a positive attitude.
Clearly the topic of “attitude” has been addressed ad-nauseum in many a self-help piece, but this doesn’t mean that it is not worthy of topical consideration for chief executives. Leaders are not perfect, and as CEO, trust me when I tell you you’re going to have your fair share of bad days. The difference between you the CEO, and everyone else on the planet is you don’t have the luxury of displaying a bad attitude.
Why then do so many CEOs appear to have a bad attitude? While there are certainly a variety of reasons (ego, arrogance, pride, etc.) for why a CEO can display a bad attitude, I believe in many instances it’s because they have fallen prey to a bad habit. Yes, attitudes are formed, and a bad attitude is nothing more than an ingrained habit. The good news is that habits can be broken. So, this begs the question how does a CEO know when they have a bad attitude? If you answer yes to any one of the following five questions, then you are likely in need of an attitude adjustment:
- Are your likeability and respect ratings low? While being a great CEO is not a popularity contest, the fact is most great CEOs are both well liked and respected. They have the full faith and trust of their stakeholders, and possess strong positive relationships across constituencies. What do you reflect, and what do people see in you? If you are not well liked and respected then you will have consistent, self-imposed obstacles placed in your path that inhibit your ability to be an effective leader. Ask yourself this question – If an election for CEO was held today, would your stakeholders re-elect you in a landslide victory? If not, why not?
- Do you tend to have a pessimistic outlook on things? If you aren’t excited about the start of each day, display a “same crap…different day” attitude, or have a “glass is half empty” perspective on things, then you likely have a bad attitude.
- Do people seek your input, advice, and counsel? If people see you coming and quickly run the other way, you have an attitude problem. Great CEOs are magnets who attract the attention of others. If people shy away from you versus clamor for your attention, you likely have an attitude problem.
- Are you often frustrated wondering why others don’t see things your way? Everyone can have a bad day, and while it’s okay to have a pity-party every once in a while, it is not the kind of party you want to throw very often, and never publicly. If the majority of your conversations and interactions are negative or confrontational you likely have an attitude problem.
- Do you have difficulty attracting and retaining tier-one executive talent? The simple truth is people strongly desire to work with and for great leaders. Great CEOs are talent magnets – people want to be led by those who have much to offer. If you struggle with recruiting, team building, and leadership development you likely have a bad attitude.
If you still don’t know whether or not your attitude is affecting your performance, I would strongly suggest participation in a 360 review process where your strengths and weakness are objectively assessed by those whom you interface with on a frequent basis. Lastly, following are few statistics that might convince you to change your outlook on life if you tend to be a pessimist:
- People with bad attitudes have an 800% higher incident rate of being diagnosed with clinical depression.
- People who possess a negative outlook on life are four times more likely to suffer a stroke, heart attack, or be diagnosed with cancer.
- People who have bad attitudes have more career turnover.
- People with bad attitudes have a 50% higher divorce rate.
- People with bad attitudes are ten times more likely to have poor relationships with their children.
If your attitude is impeding your relationships, your talent, or your health, it might be time to consider making some changes. If you have any great stories about how attitudes impact leadership and morale please share them in the comments section below.