Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit. – Napoleon Hill
Lou Holtz shares the story of a blind man who was being led down the street by a guide dog. When they came of the corner of a busy intersection, the dog crossed against the light. The blind man had no choice but to follow. Cars swerved to avoid them; drivers honked their horns and swore loudly.
Somehow, the duo reached the other side unharmed. As they stopped on the corner, the blind man reached into his pocket, pulled out a dog biscuit, and offered it to the reckless canine. Having just watched the two as they crossed, a bystander tapped the blind man on the shoulder and said, “Sir, that dog almost got you killed. The last thing you should do is give him a biscuit as a reward.” The blind man smiled and said, “I’m not giving him a reward. I’m trying to find his mouth so I can kick him in the rear.”
The attitude we adapt in times of adversity will not only define the moment but will determine the future. Winston Churchill was right when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Your attitude in adversity will either demote you or promote you. Here are four common attitude approaches when times are tough. Which one will be yours?
‘Why me, why now?’ A common reaction when adversity comes is to ask the age old question of “why me?” No one likes adversity and it would be nice to live life without it. But in leadership as in life, adversity is a reality. When a leader begins to entertain these early negative thoughts the seeds of doubt are being planted. Be careful.
‘This is not fair.’ This attitude is not only a snapshot of your current state of mind but is the framework of how you are prepared to deal with it at least in the short term. Brian Tracy writes, “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to happen to you.”
The attitude formula looks like this: WR (wrong reaction) +NE (negative energy) = BE (bad ending). Before you kick your bad attitude too far down the road take Tracy’s words to heart. It’s not too late to turn around a bad ending, but you better hurry.
‘Why not me?’ At first read this might sound like arrogance. I prefer confidence. The difference maker between a leader with less skill who succeeds and a leader with more skill who fails comes down to attitude. A good attitude is the tipping point. Zig Ziglar was right when he said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
The attitude of the leader who says ‘why not me?’ is the one who does not shy away from adversity but confidently believes that these are defining moments of his leadership. A good attitude gives way to confidence.
‘Everyone together’ Compare and contrast the attitude choices in play. Notice the difference between the leader with the positive attitude and the leader with the negative one. The leader with the bad attitude is focused on himself and the bad hand he was dealt. The positive leader chooses to see his opportunity and how together with his team it can be overcome.
The attitude formula in play looks like this: GA (good attitude) + RA (right actions) = GO (Great Opportunity). A good attitude gives you a distinct advantage as a leader. It is the single greatest asset you have when facing the challenges of leadership.
William James said, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” Adversity in leadership is not unique, but the right attitude will give you the advantage. How is your attitude?
© 2012 Doug Dickerson
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