Good Work: Attitude is Everything

Your expression is the most important thing you wear  -Sid Ascher
Of the things you can control as a leader, your attitude may be the most important.
Growing up, my kids were sick of me talking about attitude.  We have talked about it every day.  I hung a giant “A” on their bathroom mirror to remind them.  We talked about it on the way to school.  We talked about it at the dinner table.  I told them it all starts with a positive attitude.
As a school superintendent I tried to model a positive attitude.  At our third back to school rally, there were thousands of people in the football stadium chanting after me, “I am proud, I am optimistic, I am a learner!”  My kids thought I was a dork, but I was proud of what we had accomplished and was optimistic about the future.
Attitude is a conscious choice every day.  Simple choices—to be pleasant or sour, to see good or bad, to support or patrol—shape who we are and how we are perceived by others.   Perhaps partially hereditary, partially learned, when questioned most will tell you that it is a choice that they make daily.  For some, morning exercise gets the blood flowing.  For others, quiet reflection shapes the outlook for the day.  People with a positive attitude have made it a way of life.
I hire attitude over experience.  When I was a superintendent, we replaced three quarters of our school administrators during my first four years and had the great fortune to hire an enthusiastic group of people that created a positive school culture.  When children, staff members, and parents see an optimistic leader and feel enthusiastic about school they can accomplish anything.  You it’s easier to teach skills than attitude.
Attitude makes all the difference, and it is up to you.  Be conscious about your attitude.  More specifically, be conscious about how other people perceive your attitude.  With a positive attitude you will sell more, teach more, convince more, and be a better friend.  Attitude is everything.
Good Work is a Sunday series about finding and doing mission-driven work.  It started as journal entries while serving as a public school superintendent.  We’d love to hear your story about good work.  

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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John Rotheray

I thoroughly enjoy your posts, but this one was an unexpected gem. Thank you for writing Tom!


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks John


As a working adult now I totally appreciate the attitude focus. It's helped shaped who I am and who I surround myself by. That A on the bathroom mirror made a world of difference in life decisions.

Courtney Hanes

Without having read your post today, I almost tweeted, "Attitude really is everything." It is such a powerful choice, and it feels SO much better! Thanks for this.

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