A Leader’s Attitude Adjustment

In the movie Remember the Titans, the story follows the integration of two high schools in Virginia. Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is hired as head football coach in a very emotionally charged situation. At any point, something bad could erupt.  Yet, the movie captures the attitude transformation of the team. The team captain, who was an All-American defensive player, finds himself complaining about the selfishness of another player. Yet, this captain wasn’t supporting the head coach’s philosophy of becoming a successful team. Only when the leaders on the team supported the team strategy did the team start being successful.  

Good leaders understand the importance of a good attitude in building an effective organization. Everyone loves a winner, but many people forget the struggles to the top. Yet, emerging leaders understand the need for teambuilding and leadership development. In the textbook Contemporary Management, Gareth Jones and Jennifer George make the case for greater emotional intelligence by managers.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage one’s own mood as well as the mood of others.  They argue that managers will better be able to relate to their employees. Understanding employees as well as customers is a necessity for successful organizations.  Jim Cathcart, sales expert, further suggests that the attitude of a salesperson can make or break a sale. He notes that customers want to know that the salesperson cares about them. Is it different in your industry?

Given this framework, managers would understand that it does not ay to exhibit a bad attitude with their workers. According to a Carnegie Foundation survey, 85% of an individual’s success in life is attributed to a person’s ability to deal with people and manage his or her self. Therefore, a positive attitude by manages may contribute greatly toward organizational profitability in the long run.

Great leaders can set the tone for an organization. In fact, leadership expert Dr. Bruce Winston notes that employees want leaders who can move an organization in a positive direction during stormy times.  Furthermore, John C. Maxell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, argues the significance of a good attitude:

“If you want outstanding results, you need good people with great talent and awesome attitudes. When attitudes go up, so does the potential of the team.”

When a selfish person leads an organization, it can have a negative impact on the organization. In fact, a bad attitude can damage the work culture. The results can go well beyond the bottom-line for most corporations.  Therefore, a good attitude does matter, Captain!

 Does your organization support the concept of EI? If not, why?  How do leaders ensure that they have the right attitude for the job?

© 2010 by Daryl D. Green

29 thoughts on “A Leader’s Attitude Adjustment

  1. I do feel that the organization that I work for does use EI in building its leadership culture. I work for a credit union and we are a non-profit organization that believes in helping people than making a big profit. But not everyone uses this strategy in my organization. I do believe that leaders are born and not made. Either you have that leadership quality or you don’t. And not all leaders, that being board members, upper management, or even lower management have that quality. They can be great at what they do and have great results, but being able to use EI to lead is just not in their personality to do. According to Daniel Goleman whom came up with the term EI, these are a list of skills a good leader should have:
    Self-Awareness: Knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions.
    Self-Management: Managing ones’ internal states, impulses, and resources.
    Social Awareness: Awareness of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns.
    Relationship Management: Adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others.

    Being a great leader is who you are, it is something that comes natural and is not something that you can learn. Let me say that in another way, a person can learn to be an ok leader, but not a great one. Either you have it or you don’t.

    ref: The Performance Attitude. http://thelearningattitude.com/leadership-attitude.htm

    • Hi Griffin,

      I appreciate your careful discussion.

      Let’s me build on one of your thoughts: “I do believe that leaders are born and not made. Either you have that leadership quality or you don’t.”

      Given your observation, why do organizations persists in leadership development programs? This is not a new battle about leaders being born to lead. However, I would encourage everyone to dig deeper. Please look at the Great Man Theory and Trait Theory as it relates to this discussion.

      • I agree with Griffin in that leaders are born, but I disagree with him when he states that being a great leader is something that you cannot learn. And I support my stance from the Trait Theory that Professor Green mentioned. The Trait Theory assumes people are born with inherited traits, and that the right combination of traits are suited for leadership. For example, people are born with the ability and desire to motivate others to follow them, and the energetic level that others feed from. These are traits needed to be a leader. However, people must learn the skills needed to be a GREAT leader like being intelligent, creative, tactful, organized, persuasive, and socially skilled. You can be born with the ability to exceed in these areas, but not unless you learn how to or are taught too through experience.
        Drill Sergeant’s in the Army always told us “False motivation is better than no motivation. Others feed off of how you present yourself. Don’t be a cancer.”


  2. Currently, my employer does not directly set forth an initiative to train management on the EI theory, but they do realize that the skill set should be inherent. A good manager or leader will adjust their attitude to positively enhance the outcome or situation.

    R. Templar, author of “The Rules of Management” expressed that “It is your job and responsibility as a manager to be cheerful, considerate, polite, and helpful. Your people are one of your most important resources – your tools, your weapons of mass achievement. Without them you are nothing. With them you are a team.”

    Your staff’s attitude is expressed in their work. If they are depressed, it shows in their final product, how they relate to customers and how they respond to you as a leader.

  3. In response. Are leaders born than unmade? This is a question brought up by Rhett Laubach and Ryan Underwood, Co-Founders of PLI, Inc. They feel that “I believe that leaders are born with the big things they need to be an Expert Leader. From there we learn the behaviors necessary to allow these Switches to come to life. Are leaders born or made? Born with the big things. We can make the little things.” This is a topic in their upcoming book “THe Unmade Leader”. Leaders are born with certain traits and characteristics, it sometimes takes a class or siminar on leadership to bring those traits and characteristics out to become a great leader.


  4. I work for a mfg company, and I do not think that they are training managers to be emotionally intelligent. I have tried to develop these skills over time, as I do believe that EI is a very important part of leadership.

    I favor the argument of ‘made and developed over time’. Through my career I’ve learned the most by just being aware of the leaders around me and trying to pattern myself after their good qualities. Being a good leader involves attitude, character & understanding your skill set.

    It’s amazing at what you can learn from watching others. And, understanding how actions and attitudes really do ‘trickle down’ through an organization.

    Accornding to George Ambler’s article “Leaders are not born, they’re made” he discusses how leadership takes time to develop. People need to understand their vision & purpose; learn how to express it; and learn how to use their strengths and skills.

    People may be born with certain traits that allow them to become a strong leader. But, it takes time to develop those traits and skills in order to manage others and lead well.

    “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi

    • Agreed, Great leaders are refined and are ready to lead when the opportunity presents itself.
      Senca(Who I beleive to be a Roman Philosopher)said
      “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
      I say Leadership is what happens when when preparation meets opportunity.

  5. Does your organization support the concept of EI? If not, why? How do leaders ensure that they have the right attitude for the job?

    The company I work for is a small organization and it seems to me that the managing style is not centered around EI but more about the bottom line. This is not to say they are not concerned with EI because I went through a pretty rigorous question & answer session as well as an extensive personality test to make sure I fit in with the company culture and adhered to the norms during the interview process.

    In sales to be successful you have to believe in what your selling, therefore if you are the leader of the team you have to be passionate about your role as a leader, your company, and you have to provide the necessary tools to the team you have assembled to ensure success. I think to develop the right attitude as a leader you need to be in tune with your team, know & be able to execute the day to day workings of your team; in this sense you will know, first hand, what it takes to reach goals and carry out strategies.

  6. The most effective leaders in my organization do practice EI in their management style. However, like many organizations it has not been officially labeled and endorsed by my employer as an agency focus. As a result, some leaders are more adept at EI than others. Like many police agencies there is a natural cohesiveness that encourages officers to take care of their own and help one another. This is one of the main reasons I have remained in the profession for the last 17 years. It has fostered an excellent work environment that makes the job enjoyable. The Knoxville Police Department’s Operational Philosophy has also set a tone that serves as a guide for members in how they treat citizens and peers to include subordinates.
    -Do the right thing
    -Do your very best everyday
    -Treat others as you would want to be treated.
    In my experience good leaders and EI is primarily a learned skill. Only through a disciplined life, can true leadership be realized. John C. Maxwell references a study in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus that found; “ It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguish leaders from their followers.” Good leaders are developed and refined through self-discipline, experience and circumstances.

    Maxwell, John C. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable laws of Leadership.
    Nashville, TN.: Thomas Nelson.

  7. It has been two years since I started working for the company and over this short period of time, I witnessed two absolutely different attitudes of Directors. The former Director had, what he called, “open door” policy. The only problem with that policy was, that his door was always shot and every time we had to discuss something very important, it would take days.
    Now, new Director, on the other hand, would not make big announcements or implement rules that she would not follow herself. She learned everyone’s name (over 60 employees) in less than two weeks, knew everyone’s background (!) and took her time to stop by all the departments to introduce herself (the first day of work). It was very impressive. All the accomplishments now are recognized by certificates or awards. Our numbers had increased dramatically since last year and I think our Director’s EI played a big role in these achievements.
    And the best part of it, she always keeps her door open.

  8. My experience of being a manager as a classroom teacher supports the idea that attitude matters. The atmosphere in my classroom is set by my attitude. When I have the attitude that I am glad to see the students and I am excited about teaching them then they in turn have a better experience. Now I will not go as far to say they are all excited and glad to be there and do math, but they do behave and perform better.

    This is also true when you manage your home. The mood and emotions that you portray effects the people in your household for better or worse.

  9. I have heard the term communication dubbed as the “lifeblood” of an organization. Having bad communication skills can damage the organization from top to bottom or from the inside out. We all have different interpersonal communication skills. Someone transmits the information over various channels of communication and the recipient will receive and decode the information. We all hope that there is no noise in the line of communication and that positive feedback is received. The terms and expressions we use may not be the same for everyone we work with. There are several organizational barriers that may inhibit your line of communications with someone. How one manages conflict and negotiates effectively will be well respected by his peers and subordinates.

    When I worked for Norfolk Southern, all managers were required to attend a week long course on understanding one’s temperaments. They also taught us how to communicate with someone from another quadrant of the MBTI list. The training provided specific information on temperament applications to leadership, teaching, learning and team development. It detailed specific workplace applications of type including leadership, team building, goal setting, conflict and communication.

    Stoner, James, Freeman, R., STONER, JAMES, FREEMAN, R., Wankel, Charles, Freeman, Edward, & Library, Baker. (1995). Harvard business school core collection 1995. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: 1995-11.

  10. My employer does support the concept of Emotional Intelligence, but we don’t call it that. We call it FISH. FISH is a set of work practices outlined in a book by the same name and relates to those same principles taken directly from the Pike Fish Market in Seattle WA for leadership and employee team building. The four integral principles which apply to instilling leadership in employee are “Being There”, “Choosing Your Attitude”, Having Fun”, and “Serving Your Customer”. If applied on a regular basis, the principles are supposed to result in better leadership in employees because it stresses that the organization operates best when the employees work as team players for the common good of serving the customer. Customers can be internal or external. The FISH process teaches that as humans, we all have personal problems and emotions which can negatively affect our attitude which in turn can negatively impact our job performance when we interface with our customers, fellow employees, or our managers. In order to get better control of our problems, we need to practice discipline of choosing the right attitude, focusing on the customer, providing the best service to the customer, and during the day, it’s ok to have fun. FISH says it’s important that managers share in the fun process with the employees, which helps the leadership process.

    • I enjoy the comment post by Lewis, it would be interesting to work in an enviroment that practices the FISH philosophy. The company I work for has been in business in Knoxville for 117 years. They have been through many ups and downs, being a construction company many employees are concerned about their future and have commented on if they work faster to get a job done, they are working towards their layoff quicker. Others have the attitude that they have been with the company 20-30 years and they are irreplacable.
      The owner of our company has a great attitude towards the future and has even hired new PMs and estimators. She is very confident towards the future and has faced many struggles herself. As a manager it is important to be able to adjust the manner in which you deal with each employee. Gary Chapman’s book The five love languages of Children, can be applied in any setting. Some people may have the need for positive affirmation(“You are doing a good job!”, ” We appreciate you!”)) while the next person may have the need for acts of service( performance awards, public recognition etc.) Others may have what Gary Chapman describes as the need for quality time, these individuals would have thier emotiuonal needs fulfilled by sitting down and talking one on one about their performance.

  11. The industry I work in, which is the restaurant industry, is greatly affected by positive or negative attitudes of management. I have worked with several different companies and a plethora of different management styles and the attitude affects the productivity and environment tremendously. When a manager treats the employees as if they don’t know what they are doing and micromanages, the only thing that occurs is making the employees angry. When working with the public, this can affect the bottom line very quickly. Servers need to have a positive attitude in order to give the guest a pleasant experience and possibly turn them into regular guests. The company I work for currently has a great management team. They trust that the employees will get their job done because it affects their income immediately. I understand not all companies can have management styles like this, but in my opinion the managers have to adjust the way they manage according to how their employees perform. When there are incentives to doing one’s job correctly and efficiently, employee productivity rises, not to mention employee moral. Most people spend most of their time at the workplace, so it is important to be happy and have fun to improve their quality of life.

    • Hi Cassie,


      You opened up a thought: “Is it possible to infuse FUN into an organization?” If so, how? How do managers argue this point while speaking to the bottom-line?

  12. I agree that leaders aren’t born. They need to be developed to lead as the company and situations demand. Companies normally shape up their leaders as their rules and necessities. I agree that companies should follow EI to better develop their leaders. Emotional Intelligence is involved in the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions and manage them. (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). Identify and handle emotions are major functions of a good leader. It’s very hard to learn how to lead effectively.
    Big companies need different kinds of leaders because of the different activities that demand diverse people. Some jobs required different kinds of thought or a specific skills. Departments are different between each other, different people, different environment different employee profile. EI is mandatory to teach those leaders correctly.
    Sometimes bosses transferred from other city or department fail trying to lead another group, even in the same company. Maybe, the reason can be a different approach. The major point here is that we are talking about people. Lead and deal with people requires a knowledge that EI can help to develop to understand and guide. Dr. Greene said last class about understand and know about Myers Briggs personality. It’s necessary know a little bit about each profile to better understand your colleagues and employees, classifies them. This will help a lot to lead, to develop the perfect approach and techniques to teach and learn at work.

  13. From my understanding, I feel every organization should support the concept of Emotional Intelligence. EI may be a useful concept in understanding leadership and social influence as it refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. “A much better indicator is our level of Emotional Intelligence, which encompasses how well we understand and manage our own emotions, and how well we interact with others. The most successful Support Managers are both aware of their own Emotional Intelligence and work to improve it daily.”

    Great leaders understand that the right attitude will set the right tone, which enables the right responses from others. An organizational culture is based on how a leader acts and is carefully observed by workers who then respond accordingly. If leaders are successful and valued, they must show the values of the organization in their daily behaviour.

  14. Shehzad, nice contribution!

    Here is the controversy. You state “A much better indicator is our level of Emotional Intelligence…”

    Can you provide 2-3 experts (other than the text) that supports EI in organizations?

    • Experts of Emotional Intelligence:

      1.Lea Brovedani: She is an international EI expert. Through EI testing and training, Brovedani is helping individuals and organizations to build stronger, more rewarding professional and personal relationships.

      2.Jeanne Segal: She is a sociologist, psychologist, and author. She has explored Emotional Intelligence for over 35 years in helping people enhance their lives and improve their relationships. She focuses on how individuals can empower themselves and bring about life-altering social and emotional change

  15. In my industry, adult beverages, EI has never been addressed. Most of the leaders in my company have been here forever and worked their way up so they feel they had to deal with a lot of things that others should have to as well. If you do not like it and get a bad attitude, you can leave. Mostly, they are old school where emotions were checked at the door when you walked in and you can pick them up when you leave. The company feels that you should control your own emotions and that no one else should be able to influence that. I suppose since most of the team is out in the market everyday, they need to be able to control themselves and not let others impact them since their manager may not be there to help them out. I am not saying I agree with this, because I do not. I have worked for a credit union before that uses EI and I felt it was a much better place to work. EI needs to be in the workplace to keep an even balance. I do not feel my company has that even balance and that most employees are unhappy.

    As for the born vs made leaders: I agree with Griffin that POTENTIAL leaders are born. No one just discovers one day that they have every trait necessary to lead. The skill set must be pulled out and developed. As for the leadership workshops and such that are offered for employees, I feel that these are to help those who would like help work on being better. For example, I cannot draw. It was just something I was not born with the ability to do. I can take an art class and get better, but I will never be classified as an artist. I have tried for years to draw, but it is something that I was not born with the skill set to do. Just as not everyone will be an expert leader after a workshop if they were not born with the skill set.

    Reference: http://www.leadersdirect.com/bornlead.html

  16. I manage a department with 40 employees for a large healthcare organization. Promoting a positive attitude in the workplace starts with those in leadership positions. Mercy Health Partners has 6 core values which set our company apart. Service is one of the core values. The company wants each employee to think about their attitude and how they treat each person they come in contact with while still providing excellent service. Although it is not called EI, I believe Mercy would include this in their core values.

    In order to truly live these core values out each day, I start each day with an attitude of gratitude. I think of several things I am thankful for and one is having a job. Everyday I must deal with sick workers/children, tardiness, equipment failure and many other problems. I choose to deal with these issues as opportunities rather than problems. I also encourage my employees to do the same by being an example.

  17. I think training in emotional intelligance could go a long way in the working environment. employees often find it hard to respond to managers who are moody. employees are not likely to give thier all when they’re in a bad mood, they will do the bare minimum, it is up to the managers to set the tone in the work place. i know i have a manager who can just ruin your entire day and stop all productivity. thats why i believe in the saying that leaders are borned. promoting from other departments can often have people that are good at what they do but not very good people persons.

  18. My organization does support the concept of EI by actually having classes on managing our attitudes and the attitudes of others. We have been taught how to present questions or phrases to our members to receive a more positive response. Managers can insure that they have the right attitude for the job by thinking of the attitudes that they would want their employees to have for that particular job. Sometimes we have to step back and examine the situation from an external perspective in order to have a better understanding of what we need to do in the same situation.

  19. No, I don’t feel so, simply because I don’t think they fully grasp the concept of Emotional Intelligence. At the core of dissection in this issue I have found that intelligence as defined by Webster is the “ability to learn and understand or to deal with new or trying situations.” So we understand that acts a manager commits in his response to a situation is his applied methodology which is typically standard or based on procedure; the varying element in all of this is the presence of emotions. Emotions change as much as every hour and even sooner than that. The thing is composing these emotions to a parameter before they cause us to make rash decisions and most individuals within my organization fail to adhere to this fact, plainly because they allow their emotions to get the best of them. All managers aren’t leaders, true because leaders go beyond maintaining, they motivate, inspire and rally their employees into the inclusive mind set & team concept they must push their worker to produce at levels that don’t appear to be for selfish individual benefit. Maxwell also states, “The bottom line in leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others.”

    Maxwell, J. C. (1798). “The 21 irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You.” pg.50-51

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