Do you need an attitude adjustment?

Brussels sprouts.  Love them or hate them, those little green cabbages can certainly be polarising. Personally, my relationship with the little green sprout has evolved over the years.  I hated them as a child – soggy, green, smelly and tasted like cabbage.  But since I discovered them sautéed with a little garlic and bacon my attitude towards them has transformed.  They are now a welcome and regular addition to the vegetable drawer in my fridge and I’ve even converted my children!

Attitudes.  They’re powerful but invisible forces that shape our thoughts feelings and actions every day – and much of the time we’re not even aware of them.

Your attitude is like a box of crayons that colour your world.  Allen Klein

Psychologists define attitudes as a learned tendency to evaluate specific objects, people, issues, or events in a particular way.  So, effectively, attitudes are our inner Judge. These evaluations can be black and white – positive or negative, but they can also be mixed, where you might be unsure about an issue or person.  Attitudes are often the result of experience, learning, or social norms such as upbringing and culture, and while they can be enduring, attitudes are also open to change.

People hear your words, but they feel your attitude. John C. Maxwell

Leaders’ attitudes have a powerful impact on their own performance and the people they lead.  Positive attitudes in a leader impact their own personal resources such as resilience, self-belief and confidence and the motivation, engagement and performance of their teams.  The challenge is that we’re not always aware of how our attitudes are at play.

Research suggests that specific attitudes correlate strongly with overall leadership effectiveness. These include having the confidence to disagree with peers and bosses; being motivated to take risks that will make a difference and create value and connecting with others in a way that creates a powerful and positive influence.

And it’s not only your own attitudes that make the difference.  In any workplace, engaged and disengaged employees work side by side.  What is the biggest difference between them?  Their attitudes towards their work.

So what can you do to adjust your own or your team’s attitudes?

First, it can be useful to understand what influences how ‘strong’ an attitude is, as this can determine how hard or easy it will be to adjust.  It also raises some useful questions for leaders.

People are more likely to behave according to their attitudes under these conditions:

  • When attitudes are the result of personal experience.
    – How can you create positive experiences at work for yourself and with your team?


  • When you are an expert on the subject.
    – How can you develop expertise and enable others to do the same?
    – Or perhaps you need to broaden the knowledge base in your team to create new attitudes and diversity in thinking


  • When you expect a favourable outcome.
    – How optimistic are you?  Do you have an optimistic attitude towards work and with your team?


  • When the attitudes are repeatedly expressed.
    – Do you engage in gossip and negative talk at work?  Do you close-down unhelpful negative talk in your team?


  • When you stand to win or lose something due to the issue.
    Are you aware of when you are ‘invested’ in a particular outcome?  Can you recognise this in your team members?


Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.
  Lou Holtz

Attitudes strongly influence how you show up as a leader and the results you achieve.  You have a choice to choose a positive yet realistic attitude in your leadership and with the people you’re leading.  You have a choice to adjust unhelpful attitudes and develop more positive ones.  Here’s how:

  1. Adjust through learning
    Intentionally create positive experiences with the attitude target (person, object etc.) so that your brain associates positive feelings with it. Observing positive experiences of others can also have a similar impact.


  2. Adjust through persuasion
    Persuasion can help you be motivated to listen and think about the message, which can lead to an attitude shift. This works best with messages that are thought-provoking and that appeal to logic.


  3. Adjust through conflict
    Your attitudes can also change when you have conflicting beliefs about a topic. The tension created by these opposing beliefs is called ‘cognitive dissonance’ and can cause a shift in attitudes to reduce the tension. Experiencing a diverse range of views and attitudes can help create this, around attitudes that you want to change or explore further.

Shifting your attitude isn’t complicated, but it does take some effort.  It’s an important effort for leaders to make, for as William James the early 20th century philosopher said, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult undertaking which, more than anything else, will determine its successful outcome.”

Paige can help you develop positive leadership attitudes through her Leading Well  Workshop.  For more details click here.

Copyright 2019: Dr Paige Williams

Paige Williams, PhD

Paige Williams, PhD

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach

Paige helps leaders leverage their leadership to lead teams that deliver and create culture that feeds high performance.

Leveraging Leadership for positive purposeful impact.