Whether you’re leading a company, a family, or a small group at church, few things affect how we lead more than our attitude. So, what attitude do you have?

Attitude influences how you behave and interpret new information and situations. The only thing that holds more influence than your attitude is your belief system. This should lead you and me to believe how key to our leadership our attitudes are.

The easiest way for me to illustrate this to you would be to use the framework of a CEO or department manager. However, this equally applies to parenting, marriage, or even friendships.

There are 3 distinct attitudes I have found that a leader can hold. See if you can identify which one you are. I’m sure you’ll be able to pick which one your supervisor is.

1. Authoritarian

This is the supervisor that likes to beat you down with their title (something John Maxwell identifies as the lowest level of leadership). They most likely are harsh in their words and probably their tone. They tend to lead with fear because it’s gotten them results. However, those results are short-lived and the damage to the team is long-term.

They may say things that hint at your job being terminated. They do not accept criticism of any kind and quickly “bark” back when confronted with anything that contradicts what they say.

Overall, these people are insecure about their leadership and are more concerned with how they look to their supervisors or peers (in a non-professional setting, this would be other parents) than how they come off to their team. Team members (or children) tend to become resentful quickly and the quality of work will decline.

2. Passive

This is the supervisor that lacks any confidence in their ability to lead. A hallmark of a passive leader is the mistaken hope that things will “magically” fix themselves. They do not confront problem employees or situations head on.

One of the most damaging situations involves a team member that isn’t performing to minimum standards. The passive leader will sit by too long and allow this team member to continue at a sub par level. This is what is known as sanctioned incompetence and it communicates that low levels of performance are acceptable.

The other extreme comes from not confronting an abrasive team member. This becomes especially difficult for the passive leader if that team member is a star performer.

Most of the time, passive leaders have convinced themselves that they are doing a great job because they extend so much grace and mercy to those they lead. While grace and mercy are necessary qualities of great leadership, overextending them to one team member at the cost of the rest of the team is definitely not great leadership.

3. Authoritative

This attitude of leadership is the equivalent of little bear’s porridge in the story of the 3 little bears — just right! This supervisor extends grace and mercy when a team member truly needs it, confronts abrasive team members, and doesn’t allow under-performing ones to stick around very long.

This supervisor works for their team and is more concerned with their ability to be productive than with the opinion of their own supervisor. This is because they know that their team members are their first customers. If they take care of their team members, then the customers will be taken care of, which will take care of the CEO, the board, or whomever is in charge.

They use their influence as a supervisor and leader to bring the best out of their team and their peers. They bring confidence and vision to the people around them and aren’t afraid to get in the trenches and do the work they’ve asked their team members to do.

As you can see, there are distinct differences between the three and each brings something unique to the table. However, it is clear which one you would want as your supervisor and which one you should strive to be. You won’t always get it right, but that’s OK as long as you pick yourself up and keep trying.

Authenticity is more important than perfection for a leader.
– Marcus Buckingham

Question: Which attitude do you lead with? In what ways would you change your leadership attitude? Share your response in the comments below.

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