Leadership Development

Attitudinal Current

Wise leaders are aware and know how to attitude correct (self) and attitude influence (others). Do you know the flow and impacts of your attitudes?

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The sound of moving water is soothing, even awe-inspiring. My favorite places to sit and refresh are beside a mountain stream or river, where the water rolls over stones, and at a waterfall, where you feel the intensity of the roar and the gentleness of the spray. Then there are the early evening ocean breezes that can calm the most uptight of people. All of these moving moments come from currents.

Just like water and wind, attitude has a current. Attitude can move you to the most desirable of accomplishments or the least desirable of results. The current of your attitude can even carry those around you to unexpected emotional and mental spaces. One of the challenges with attitude is that it can be subtle yet still impact.

We often describe someone saying, “He has such an attitude!” as if having an attitude is negative. Attitudes gain their negative, positive, or neutral (if that exists) status from their bearer. They express opinions, beliefs, pains, hopes, fury, fear, faith, and so much more.

You can see the nature of an attitude on a face or through body language and hear it in a tone of voice or words. Those visible and audible expressions create a current you can feel. Those attitudinal forces can move your thoughts and emotions to unanticipated places. Just as another person’s attitude can move you, others can be moved by yours. An attitude is powerful.

Watching old episodes of The Biggest Loser, it’s interesting to note people's attitudes toward their trainers. It is all over their faces and in the words they speak. I tend to have a running commentary about their choice to be at the ranch, their having been chosen from among others, and the need to “Give it all you’ve got!” Eventually, the trainees experience breakthroughs, and attitudes shift to positive space. They begin to see their trainer as an ally and not an enemy, and the flow of the current moves in the direction of amazingly empowered success. All of a sudden, the scale shows it.

Exploring this idea of attitude as a current can go in many directions and be fed by an abundance of little tributaries or powerlines. What follows is to get us thinking and paying attention, especially to the subtle nature of the attitudinal current.

You are the source of your attitudinal current. No one else is. Let’s consider a few attributes of currents and reflect on how they can represent the effects of our attitude. I will particularly apply these alignments to the attitudinal currents brought by a leader’s presence. My aim is to help you pay attention to what flows from you. Your attitude impacts you, those around you, and the effectiveness of your important work. What is that impact? Is it what you desire it to be?

Direction of Current
Where is your attitude taking you and those around you?

Currents are moving. That movement has a direction, even if it is confusing. What you see on the surface isn’t necessarily representative of what is below the surface. You might not see evidence of the current at all. Have you ever touched an electric fence or been caught in an ocean’s undertow?

One subtle current I point out is the declaration, “I’ve tried everything.” This statement resembles “I can’t.” If you have ever been swimming in the ocean, you may have experienced being taken down the beach a bit by the currents. If unaware, you can look up and wonder where your friends and family went. They didn’t move; you did.

In the same way, your attitude can shift to a place of vision discouragement without you realizing it. Instead of “I’ve tried everything,” see what flow is produced from “Let’s keep looking and listening for what we haven’t seen or heard yet.” Feel the difference?

Community impact necessitates a flow of leadership that doesn’t allow the subtle current of disenchantment to develop. You are an influencer, but of what sort? Your influence greatly depends on your attitude, with a flow source determining the flow direction. Leading in one direction is challenging when your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions take you in another.[i]

Positive and hopeful attitudes can see the challenges yet not be controlled by them. More on that below. Vigilance in attitude checks can catch harmful currents before they have significant effects and move in an undesired direction. This is true for an organization as well. What is the feel of your meetings? Where does the flow take the team: strong collaboration or stifling commiseration?

Ultimately, you and I are only responsible for our own attitudinal currents. We can invite and coax those around us to a different stream of thought and emotion, but we can’t force them in. Feeling forced creates more attitudinal currents in a person, team, or community that lead to further challenges to overcome. If it’s your team, be the example and teach them how to assess those attitudinal currents.

Scale of Current
What is the intensity level of your attitude?

Electricity is awesome and helpful within its boundaries. While lightning is beautiful in the distant sky, it turns into something else when it bolts into the roof of a house. Downed, live powerlines after a storm can take a life very quickly. The waves of the ocean are fun to surf, but in that same ocean, a rip current can catch you by surprise and be deadly if you don’t know how to act when caught up in it. Interestingly, you ride it out until it’s over. If you know what to look for, you can see it and not get into that current.

I need to know my intensity. I also believe I need to know how to scale my intensity to the context. Being with a family who just lost their home to a fire is very different from being with a family who just closed on their first home. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware. Is being around you like a brownout, a lightning bolt, or a grounded power outlet? Even a super positive attitude can have adverse effects if it is overly present and doesn’t feel authentic or realistic.

The stronger a current, the more its effects extend. One evening, I sat at our dining room table during a storm. While working on a brand-new laptop, I was startled by lightning hitting a tree just outside the window in front of me. I felt the electricity, and the hair on my arms stood up. How far do the effects extend from your positive or negative attitude?

The current can be strong enough to move things but not so strong that the boat takes on water. There is a difference between a riot and a movement. I don’t find riots helpful other than evidencing destructive currents. Is the attitude you and your organization bring to your work a current that is intense enough to bring change and calm sufficient for others to enter?

Adjust to Currents
How does your attitude affect those around you? How are you affected by the attitudinal currents that surround you? Do you know how to adjust?

Whether strong or subtle, the attitudinal currents you produce and those that enter your world are discernable through cultivated sensitivity and observation. The most important observations and adjustments to be made are with your own self. If you guide yourself to attitudinal health and strength, your influence on the attitudes around you will have immense effects over time.

This takes us back to awareness, especially where the current is covertly subtle or overly strong. Knowing how your attitudes affect the people around you is essential. It is also crucial for you to understand if the currents around you are impacting you.

Beyond the observation is how you adjust to the currents you observe as being present externally and internally. Humility is a crucial attitude here. If I am not seeing the movement around me that I desire, the first place I look is within me. What is flowing out of me that is a counter-current to the desired good? Even toxic pipelines have a current

Even in conflict, there can be a current that leads to good and a current that leads to the undesirable. One person having a bad attitude day does not necessitate everyone around them being dragged into that current. If I feel the hint of an undertow in the ocean, I move closer to the shore to find stable ground.

There is an interesting phenomenon where oceans meet. For instance, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Pacific and Indian Oceans, there is a distinct line. These oceans don't mix easily because of differences in their makeup, leading to a visible distinction at their point of meeting.[ii] With the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, major eddies or whirlpools are also formed where the two oceans meet.[iii] When the currents of your community come together, the lines may be clear, but is there an attitude of sharing that makes it possible to do some good together?

Sometimes, you may need to move against a current that is taking you where you don’t want to go. An engine creates a counter-current option. Whether a big fan or a small outboard motor, an engine on a boat creates a current that can also be guided to the desired destination, even against undesired currents. What is the state of your inner engine?

In a previous blog, I unpacked the idea of being Simply Available. The attitudinal current of availability makes choices, but they are well informed by Conversation, Exploration, and Revelation. The simply available person slows down enough to know what’s going on, never saying, “I’m too busy,” because they see the value of living wisely from a place of insight and understanding. This process goes far beyond first glance, assumptive, top-of-mind, and surface looks. Fear is an attitudinal current. If you have difficulty being available for assessment and adjustment, what are you afraid of? That fear is in your way.

People look to wise people because they have proven themselves to be wise. They have a life-flow that is observable and desirable. Wise leaders are aware and know how to attitude correct (self) and attitude influence (others).

My aim here is to help you pay attention to what flows from you. You have an impact, and I am sure you desire it to move the world around you to better, stronger, healthier places. Pay attention to what you are thinking, envisioning, feeling, taking in, moving away from, and moving toward. Become a reader, navigator, and cultivator of currents leading to your desired world.

Action Points

  • What words would people use to describe your presence?
  • What kind of attitudinal current do you produce? Do people leave you shocked or empowered, woeful or hopeful, overwhelmed or motivated?
  • How are you managing the unhelpful currents around you?
  • How are you managing the unhealthy and unhelpful currents within you?
  • What do your face, body, tone, and words say about your attitude?
  • If you have difficulty being available for assessment and adjustment, what are you afraid of?

[i] This is much like the idea I describe in “Holding Out Hope.” It is difficult to give what you don’t have and to lead in a direction you have difficulty believing.

[ii] https://www.geologyin.com/2023/07/do-atlantic-ocean-and-pacific-ocean-mix.html

[iii] https://oneoceanexpedition.com/ocean-research/where-two-oceans-collide

Do you desire to strengthen your CharityTracker or OasisInsight network to new levels of collaboration and impact? Reach out to Chuck today to schedule your conversation: chuck@simonsolutions.com

ED645C80-CA25-41C2-8B6E-A6E7FA346EC1_1_201_aDr. Chuck Coward serves as Community Impact Specialist for Simon Solutions, Inc. Chuck has invested over 35 years in fostering human and community development from a variety of places and roles, including as a pastor, non-profit Executive Director, Director of Development, businessman, consultant, university professor, The Struggle Coach, and the founder of Entrusted Foundation. Serving to make people and communities stronger is his great passion. Chuck is the proud husband to Anita, dad to four, and granddaddy to eight.

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