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MAY 2010

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“Attitude Code in Effect”

“What can you learn from a seven year old? Nothing! You have to tell them what to do.”

or so I remember the late John Savage saying. He was talking about children, and related it to working with clients. He said they both needed help to make the right decisions.

Jim RutaBy Jim Ruta, BA, RHU
Director, GAMA International Canada

Carmakers Cadillac and Packard were fierce competitors. When industry leading Cadillac brought out the V8 engine in 1915, maybe a little before it was ready for prime time, Packard made hay with their challenges. Cadillac responded with one of the most influential advertisements in history.  Here’s the part of that advertorial that applies to us:

The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy — but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as human passions — envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains — the leader.
—Theodore F. MacManus, Cadillac Advertorial, 1915

If you are in a leadership role or aspire to it, you have to know two important truths. First, you will be held to a higher standard than followers. Second, you have a target on your back if you stumble. This is true in any business. Cars, insurance, and investments – it’s all the same.

Here’s what that means. 

It’s just wrong to say that “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, manage”.  Management or leadership is a calling unto itself.  It takes special mind and skill sets to be a strong leader. 

It is definitely not a default position for sales failure — far from it. Managers “sell” more than ever. They just sell different ideas to different people — their team. Don’t think that once you are in management that your selling days are over. You’ll be very disappointed, if you want to be a top manager.

In “Leadership is an Art” Max Dupree said “Leaders absorb the heat, they don’t reflect it.” He was right on. As the leader, you have the power to adjust the attitudes and behaviours of your team by the way you deal with “heat”. If you just pass it on, it will get hotter — and worse. 

But, it can stop with you. Your team will be forever grateful. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty. You can only earn it.  

Morale starts at the top. Your morale is your team’s morale. Your energy is your team’s energy. Your attitude is your team’s attitude. You have so much control in leadership.

That’s why, as the leader, you must always have an “Attitude Code in Effect” in your office. I got the idea in the 1980s in a fancy restaurant with their “Dress Code In Effect” sign. Hey, if it could work for “dress,” I thought, why not attitude? I had an 8 by 10 inch plaque made immediately. 

I posted the plaque near the front door of my agency where everyone could see it. It made everyone who walked by do “the Zig Ziglar thing”. You know, the “check up from the neck up”. It made everyone think about their attitude.  Me too. It worked. 

I still have one in my office today. You should, too.

Your agency/team takes on your personality and your attitude. Your “attitude example” is your leadership power. You are always being watched. Never think that you can let down your guard on your attitude (or your behaviour for that matter). It is the number one criteria by which you are ultimately judged as a leader. Bad attitude, bad leader.

If you have a “We can do it” attitude, everyone in your office will come to have one, too. Your attitude leadership will make a big difference in the results of everyone. Jack and Garry Kinder from Dallas always said a manager’s job was to help their people “think right and work right”. I say, when “we have better thinking, we get better business”. A rising tide raises all ships.

But if you are negative about business, people, companies or the future, so too will be those who watch you for their cues about success. And I know this isn’t easy. There are many burdens on the mantle of leadership, but your role is to lead, not follow. If you do not, everyone will be in trouble. As the tide goes out, so will everyone’s results.  

It isn’t that complicated, really.

When you lead the way with an “Attitude Code in Effect” you’ll make your job easier and improve everyone’s results.

It’s the leadership dream.

Are you interested in volunteering for GAMA International Canada?
If so, email cciotola@advocis.ca

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