Aptitude is the ability to attain a skill; attitude is a set of beliefs held by an individual.
So far, so good. But what does that mean in terms of leadership, and which one is the key to success?
Zig Ziglar said, “It is your attitude, more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude.” Many people believed this was just another catchy phrase from a mere salesman or ‘motivational speaker.’
But actually, his comment makes sense.
What he was saying is, that to be successful in business (and, indeed, life in general), having the ability to attain a skill is not as crucial as having the right attitude – approaching any task or job with determination, tenacity and lots of enthusiasm – in order to reach your goals (the altitude) is the real key to success.
But, is this true?
Well, the latest research says yes.
In his book Learned Optimism Dr Martin Seligman found that attitude is a considerably more significant predictor of success than IQ, grade average or almost any other factor investigated.
He confirmed in his research that negative people tended to be ill more often, to divorce more regularly, earn less money and even have a tendency to raise children who are more likely to get into trouble than those with a positive outlook on life.
Is Attitude More Important?
The Huffington Post describes attitude as more important than IQ.
In all aspects of your life, not just work, attitude is of paramount importance. In your relationships with others and your career, your approach is going to matter a lot more than your tangible skills.
Have a quick glance at your colleagues. What’s the general attitude of those around you – positive or negative?
Whose energy is more attractive and compelling?
People with positive outlooks exude an energy which tends to rub off on others.
If you spend time with negative people, you can almost feel your life force being sapped. Whereas with positive individuals, you feel energised and inspired. As a leader – it’s not rocket science to work out, which is going to be more effective in the workplace!
Checking your own attitude barometer will enable you to understand how others perceive you, and you will be able to make adjustments if you need to improve.
A positive attitude doesn’t mean you have to stick a smile on your face in the face of adversity and plough on; it just means that you respond to whatever happens in a way that accepts life’s twists and turns.
That includes accepting failures as well as successes and learning to take a positive lesson from them before moving on.
As a leader, showing a positive attitude will enable you to inspire and motivate your team to success.
Does Your Attitude Affect Outcome?
In a word, yes.
When we’re communicating with other people, there are several forces at play that determine how successful that conversation is going to be. These skills and attitude generate the way we interpret things and react.
Anyone can learn to be assertive in their communication or to speak publicly about their area of expertise, but without the right attitude to back it up, they won’t develop the necessary behaviours to make their communication successful.
Let me give you an example.
Jim is an assertive leader– he isn’t happy with his manager, Bob, whose work ethic and performance have slipped recently. Jim is comfortable with having a conversation to tell Bob this directly.
Now, although Jim’s assertiveness makes him able to have the conversation without feeling uncomfortable, his lack of empathy (more on this later!) in his attitude to his employee means that he doesn’t take into consideration that Jim my have some personal problems that are affecting his work output.
So, although the conversation has taken place, nothing will change because Bob hasn’t had an opportunity to give his side of the story. Consequently, he doesn’t feel listened to, or that Jim is creating a good workplace culture.
This lack of empathy on Jim’s part is only likely to increase a feeling of failure in his employee, while Jim will continue to feel Bob hasn’t listened to his message to ‘pull his socks up’ – this can only lead to more detrimental effects further down the line.
Attitude does, without a doubt, affect the outcome.
Now, that doesn’t mean that having a positive attitude guarantees success and triumph in everything you do. But what it does mean, is that you will be able to see positivity in all situations and be able to handle them with empathy and understanding.
So, where you don’t quite manage to achieve your goal initially, you will be able to learn from where you went wrong and accept the episode as one of life’s lessons, rather than throwing everything up in the air and declaring it broken beyond repair.
How Does Attitude Determine Success?
If you want excellent outcomes, you need to make sure your communication (and people) skills are excellent. That means developing relevant attitudes as once you have those, the skills will also improve.
So, what soft skills do you want to develop? What attitudes would help you achieve this?
One of the hot topics across leadership communication and style these days is that of emotional intelligence or EI.
You may already be familiar with this term, but if not, emotional intelligence means having the skills to interact with others and having self-awareness, internal motivation, self–regulation and empathy.
These skills help form your general attitude and provide a method for communicating with your team more effectively. EI shouldn’t be underestimated – it was recently ranked sixth in the World Economic Forum’s list of the top 10 skills that employees will need to possess to thrive in the workplace of the future.
Remember, if you don’t develop your attitude it doesn’t matter what you say or do – your attitude will hamper results by giving away your actual perspective in your tone of voice, manner, body language or even in the words you choose.
So, developing your EI will enable you to respond positively, empathise with others and work towards better outcomes for your team.
How Can You Develop a Positive Attitude?
You might be thinking, “Well, I can’t help the way I am.”
But that’s not true. You absolutely can – you can change the way you think.
You have total control on your attitude and your ability to change it for the better. It’s basically thought management.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
He had plenty go wrong in his own life including election losses and a difficult marriage, but he kept a relentlessly positive attitude which spurred him on.
So, start by focusing on developing your emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is a factor sadly lacking in many of today’s leaders, and yet staff who are managed by leaders with good EI show more efficiency, productivity and are motivated to do well at work.
Additionally, the ability to handle your own emotions will give you a higher tolerance for stress and help you avoid burn-out. The positivity this creates will enable you to empathise with others and express yourself in a positive and controlled way.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this can only add to the success of your business, so it’s worth investing the effort to develop EI.
And be authentic. Even if you fool others initially you won’t be able to fool yourself – you need to believe in yourself and the power of positivity 100% for it to work.
Your attitude is self-chosen. It bears no relation to your genetic ability in academic achievement, general intelligence or physical ability. You are in total control of whether you win – or not – in life.
Change your mindset, and you can change your life,
Until next time.
About blue pea POD
At blue pea POD, we are in the business of enabling leaders and organisations understand who they are, their identity and purpose, creating the profitable future they desire now.
Blue Pea POD works internationally with a client base that includes the FMCG, Retail, and Pharmaceuticals sectors. You can subscribe to our podcast here and then if you would like to find out more about how we can help you get in contact here. Or call +44(0) 845 123 1280