Attitude Reflect Leadership ... Captain!

“Attitude reflect leadership … Captain.”  That phrase haunts me.  The phrase comes from the movie Remember the Titans.  The movie is based upon a story of a high school football team in the 1960s in a school that is integrating due to desegregation.

The scene is a heated conversation between a senior team captain and a senior leader of the group of young men new to the team and school because of integration.  The coach has paired up white with black in order to allow the players to work out differences.

These two leaders clashed, and this climactic scene changes everything.  They both lay it out on the table and the senior captain points to the attitude of the other leader, which evokes the response, “Attitude reflect leadership…Captain.”  (You can watch the scene HERE)

Although this is a great movie and the scene is powerful, the focus of this article is on the quote.  I watched this movie for the first time as a young athletics coach and teacher and it hit me square between the eyes.  I was doing a good job in both the classroom and the on the field.  However, something was missing:  I was not getting the most out of my kids.

I was so busy focusing on, pointing out, and working on mistakes that I created an atmosphere of negativity.  Sure, I needed to help my students and teams eliminate mistakes.  However, focusing on that alone cultivated more mistakes.

One of my clients is a young business leader.  He is influential and has significant leadership skill and potential.  Yet I noticed that he has taken some of the conclusions we have been coming to during our sessions and turned them into teaching points for his managers.  I felt like I was looking into a mirror of my past.

So often, I would take some new concept I had learned about leadership and immediately try to influence my followers to learn and apply this skill or concept.  The problem was I had not fully integrated this concept into my own leadership.

I saw how everyone else needed to move forward without looking in the mirror.  If I want the people I lead to apply a concept or skill, then I must be able to apply that concept or skill to myself.  If those I lead have a poor attitude, then the first thing I need is to check my own.  This applies to a broader spectrum of topics than just attitude.

What are the necessary steps make a shift in this behavior?  One thing I have learned from experience is it is not an overnight solution.  The shift requires intentional and thoughtful preparation and action.  Here are some first steps:

  • Pay attention. Awareness is the first step to learning.  Am I aware that I am asking others to apply something I am not?  Where do I “preach” to my followers what I am not practicing?
  • Reflect and revisit. What got me to where I am now?  What is my gift?  Am I applying it or am I wearing a persona of how I think a leader should behave?  I like to ask clients, in poor English, “What are you good at?”  The second question is the important one, “Why are you not applying this to your leadership?”
  • Be vulnerable. Am I checking with those I lead on how I am perceived?  What I am communicating may not convey my intent.  How I am perceived:  my approach, my words, my actions, my requests, may not be how I am received.  Checking in with those I lead allows me to adjust in order to communicate effectively.
  • Be authentic. I must be myself.  I must be good with who I am.  Leadership is not a persona.  If I rely on the persona, then my posing will have little positive effect.
  • Remember the power of leader influence. I underestimate the power of my position.  Just one poor interaction has the ability to “crush” someone I am leading.  I must remind myself of Matthew 7:12.  I need to approach others how I would want to be approached.

How does the attitude of those following you reflect your leadership?  How do you rank in the above five areas?  I encourage you in your leadership to find a mentor or a coach who can give you an outside look and perspective concerning your leadership.

This mentor/coach needs to know little of the people you lead or your place of business.  He would be solely focused on you and facilitating your growth.  We who are called to lead owe it to those we lead (and ourselves) to grow on a regular basis.  In turn, those we lead will grow as well.

By Byron Myers

Byron completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2009. His deepest desire is to help people believe in their God-given goodness and live lives of integrity, authenticity and feel loved and accepted.Byron is the author of the ebook, Weekly Devotional Thoughts:  Weekly Applications of God’s WordByron is the High School Principal at Midland Christian School in Midland, Texas and a successful Business and Personal Life Coach. You can follow Byron at Weekly Devotional Thoughts.