Attitude A Key Quality for Successful Leaders

  • Published
  • By CMSgt. Matthew DeHate
  • 127th Force Support Squadron
Of all the qualities that go into being a successful leader, I believe the most important is maintaining a positive mental attitude. A positive attitude doesn't mean being sunshine and rainbows all of the time. It entails being teachable, humble, and optimistic at all levels of leadership. Technical proficiency is very important, but all aspects of the job are made easier maintaining a positive attitude. I don't profess to be an expert on this topic, just a believer in the results. Here are several quotes from successful people followed by my own thoughts on how it pertains to us as military members.

"Leadership is developed not discovered. Today a reader...tomorrow a leader." -- W. Fusselman
There's an old saying...Leaders are Readers. Some people have a positive disposition naturally, but we all need to exercise our attitude. Just as we maintain our bodies throughout the year to pass our annual Fitness Assessment, we also need to exercise our minds with positive reading. We should be mentally nourishing ourselves reading about success principles, biographies of successful people, and techniques for maintaining a positive mental attitude. The Wing Command Chief has a suggested reading list that contains the mental nourishment we need to develop ourselves into successful leaders.

"People are changed not by coercion or intimidation but by example. Few things are more powerful than a positive push." -- John Maxwell
As leaders, we need to maintain a positive attitude when dealing with the people we lead. Even in disciplinary situations, a positive approach will go further in correcting undesirable behavior. Most people will respond better to leaders that are looking to find the positive attributes of difficult situations rather than always harping on the negative. The conscious effort to find the good in bad situations will be emulated by the people that we lead.

"A great leader never sets himself above his followers except in carrying responsibility"
-- Jules Ormont
As leaders we must have the attitude to gladly accept the added responsibility of our position. To grudgingly accept or shirk the responsibility of leadership would be to the detriment of the organization and the people that you lead.

"Be the most enthusiastic person you know. Leadership has less to do with position than it does with disposition." -- John Maxwell
Most everyone naturally wants to be around enthusiastic people. Our enthusiasm and positive attitude will put us in leadership roles long before it shows in our rank. We become natural leaders among our peers because of the way we approach problems. Negative attitudes are the cultural norm in many organizations and can be difficult to overcome. One reason why we must constantly exercise our attitudes with positive reading material is to avoid the trap of negativity.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." -- John Wooden
According to AFI 36-2618, "The Little Brown Book", Tech Sergeants are often the technical experts in their organization. We have three more enlisted ranks after Tech Sergeant. What more can we learn beyond being the technical expert in our chosen field? We need to learn WHY we do the things that we do. We need to learn about taking care of people and inspiring them to be the technical experts. We need to learn long term planning and strategic thinking. We need to remain humble with a teachable attitude to learn an even bigger picture of our overall mission.

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain."
-- Vivian Greene
Storms will always come. We must learn to see through the clouds, press forward, and " in the rain". Problems will always have a work-around. The mission and the people we lead are depending on us to have the correct attitude to find the work-around and press on.

"When in doubt tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends" -- Mark Twain
Telling the truth is always sound advice and falls in line with the Air Force Core Values. When we tell the truth it is easier to sort out problems, and, it's just the right thing to do. As leaders we are often put in awkward situations and forced to have uncomfortable conversations. When we approach these uncomfortable conversations truthfully and with the right attitude, it is easier to tell the parent that "their kid is the smelly kid at school".

Though there are many facets to being successful, I believe that a positive mental attitude plays a part in every aspect of being a good leader. If we adhere to the Air Force Core Values and approach our mission with a positive, can-do attitude, I believe there are no limits to what we can achieve. As mentioned earlier, the Wing Command Chief has a suggested reading list to nourish our attitudes with positive success principles. As leaders, we need to feed our brains with positive material and promote this to our troops. In this profession, we are continually training our replacement. Portraying ourselves as a positive role model is a tremendous part of this training.