In the life of a leader nothing is as important or nothing can possibly be more important than the leader’s attitude towards choice. We naturally assume that good leaders are equipped to make good decisions. The truth is that many people, including many leaders, are often severely curtailed as a result of misunderstanding the nature of choice dynamics.
On occasion we hear the expression by a leader: ‘I do not have a choice’. I personally cannot recall a situation in my life where I had no choice at all. It may well be argued that a person who has no mental capacity has no choice. That may be true, but for the vast majority, especially those who have the intelligence to read this article, we probably have far more choice than we can handle.
The decision that we ‘do not have a choice’ is a choice in itself. Perhaps what most of us mean by stating that we do not have a choice is that no viable or acceptable alternative is open to us? Such an attitude is a choice. Martyrs over the years made choices to be loyal to their causes right up to the moment of death. Just think of the choices a person makes during the game of rugby, willingly suffering physical abuse that we rugby players call ‘fun’. One man believes he can, the other believes he can’t – they are both right. It is all about choices.
Theory of choice
Let’s look at the theory of choice. The universal Law of Opposites states that ‘Each situation has unlimited conceptual opposites to chose from’. This does not imply that we will always believe that our choices will work out or that we have power to always implement what we choose. The idea that conceptually we have unlimited opposites to choose from is a thrilling concept. In an ethical sense it means that we always have a choice between good values and bad values. In a leadership sense it means that we always have a choice between the negative and positive opposites. Perhaps the reader would like to embark on a conceptual journey to try out the Law of Opposites? Doing the exercise does not mean that we have to believe the conceptual choices we make, but that we need to acknowledge that unlimited conceptual opposites are always available for us to choose from.
Probably the key reason that leaders may generally lack the confidence to seek out innovative and inspired answers to challenges is a lack of belief in their ability to find innovative solutions to a specific challenge.
Believability and choice
Our ability to believe our choices, or that they are possible to achieve depends on our characters, mindset, values and preparatory backgrounds. ‘Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve’ (Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich). The title of that famous book is deceptive and typically American. It refers to riches in the full sense of the word, not just material possessions.
We are what we choose to be
Our choices determine what we really are! When the dust of life settles around us, we find that our characters and our choices are synonymous. This is a core lesson taught by the great spiritual giants of history.
The imperative of attitude
Many things happen to us that are not necessarily the result of our choices. Obstacles (resistances, threats and challenges) are a commonality that we all have to face every day of our lives. As leaders we may not be able to change certain occurrences in life, but we can choose our attitude towards such situations! We quote William James, a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher; “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives”.
Leaders who have a positive or seamless attitude towards pressure situations are special people who often make a tremendous difference to the attitudes and situations of others around them.
Attitude is a choice
We find the words of Charles Swindoll—author, educator, and pastor—a long time ago to be especially relevant in our age: “Attitude, to me, is more important than … the past … than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. For maximum happiness, peace, and contentment, may we choose a positive attitude.”
Leadership and a flat stomach
I recall catching part of one of these popular physical exercise programs on early morning TV. I cannot remember the rest of the program, but what I can recall is that the physical trainer said: “A flat stomach is an attitude”. The principle makes good leadership sense. Everything we do as leaders is a reflection of our attitudinal choices.
We cannot always determine the kind of situations, people, obstacles and movements we are involved in, but we can choose our attitudes! Our choice of attitude in turn impacts irrevocably on the choices and resultant influences we have as leaders.
The Old Man – Louis Groenewald
LP Leadership Platform – Multiplying Leaders. Moving Society.
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