Leadership Quality #13: Positive Attitude – If you Believe you can, you can

A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him or her.
David Brinkley

Thomas Edison was named by Life Magazine as the man of the millennium. He invented 1,093 things and held more patents than any other person, having been granted at least one every year for 65 consecutive years. He also developed the modern research laboratory. Most people credit Edison’s ability to his creative genius. He credited it to hard work. “Genius,” he declared, “is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”. In this, he displayed a third factor – his positive attitude. Edison was an optimist who saw the best in everything. “If we did all the things we were capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”  When it took him 10,000 tries to find the right materials for the incandescent light bulb, he didn’t see them as that many failures. With each attempt, he gained information about what didn’t work, bringing him closer to a solution. He never doubted that he would find a good one. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”  (all quotes in this paragraph are Thomas Edison’s)

If you desire to be an effective leader, having a  positive attitude is essential. It not only determines your level of contentment as a person, but it also has an impact on how others interact with you. To learn more about what it means to be positive, ponder on these things:

  1. Your attitude is a choice – Many of us wait for someone else to motivate us. The perception is that our circumstances are responsible for the way we think.  But which comes first – the attitude or the circumstances? That’s really a chicken-or-the-egg kind of question. The truth is, it doesn’t matter which comes first. No matter what happened yesterday, your attitude is your choice today. “The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.” (Psychologist Victor Frankl)
  2. Your attitude determines your actions – Your attitude is crucial because it determines how you act. “The winner’s edge is not in a gifted birth, a high IQ, or in talent. The winner’s edge is all in the attitude, not aptitude. Attitude is the criterion for success” (family life expert Denis Waitley)
  3. Your people are a mirror of your attitude – The Law of Magnetism says who you are is who you attract. Edison’s positive attitude and enthusiasm not only fuelled him, but also inspired his people to keep pressing on until they succeeded. He purposely tried to pass that quality on to others, saying, “If the only thing we leave our kids, is the quality of enthusiasm, we will have given them an estate of incalculable value.”
  4. Maintaining a good attitude is easier than regaining one – If you already have a positive attitude, I encourage you to keep it up. On the other hand, if you have a difficult time expecting the best of yourself and others, don’t despair. Because you choose your attitude, you have the power to change it.


English heart surgeon Martyn Lloyd-Jones asserted, “most unhappiness in life is due to the fact you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself”. What kind of voices do you hear? When you meet people, do you tell yourself they’ll let you down? When you face new experiences, does a voice in your head say you’re going to fail? If you’re hearing negative messages,  you need to learn to give yourself positive mental pep talks. The best way to retrain your attitude is to prevent your mind from going down any negative forks in the road. 

So how can we achieve this?

  • Feed yourself the right food – If you have been starved of anything positive, then you need to start feeding yourself a regular diet of motivational material. Books, blogs, vlogs and podcasts that encourage a positive attitude are readily available these days. And don’t ignore the food you put into your body also, that has a huge impact on how you feel. Pair that with regular exercise and you have a rich foundation for a positive attitude.
  • Achieve a goal every day – Some people get into a rut of negativity because they feel they aren’t making progress. If that describes you, then begin setting achievable daily goals for yourself. A pattern of positive achievement will help you develop a pattern of positive thinking. Those of you that already coach with me are familiar with us celebrating in every session.
  • Write it on your wall – We all need reminders to help us keep thinking right. Writer Alex Haley used to keep a picture in his office of a turtle on a fence post, to remind him that everybody needed the help of others. As an incentive, people put up awards they have won, inspirational posters or testimonials and cards they have received. Find something that will work for you and put it on your wall.

When you look at any professional athlete, you see great talent. However it’s the mind that elevates the best to the highest level. Tennis player Chris Evert held 18 grand slam titles and an overall win-loss record of 1,309-146. She commented, “The thing that separates good players from great ones is mental attitude. It might only make a difference of two or three points in an entire match, but how you play those key points often makes the difference between winning and losing. If the mind is strong you can do almost anything you want.”   And then Serena Williams took that to the next level!

Is your mind ‘conditioned’ to win the key points ahead of you?

Part 13 of our Leadership Series: Leadership is an Inside Job, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader


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