Imagine a day at an office. A CEO sits down for a meeting with his executive team, but one director is missing. Frustrated, he stalks out of the conference room and storms into the director’s office.
“Why the hell aren’t you at the meeting?” the CEO demands.
Surprised and disoriented, the director mumbles an apology and follows the CEO to the conference room. The meeting takes place, but with the CEO furious and the director bewildered, not much gets done.
Later in the day, the CEO learns that the director had never been invited to the meeting in the first place. He apologizes for his reaction, but it’s too late: the damage caused by his attitude has already been done.
As this example demonstrates, attitude plays a powerful role in all of our day-to-day interactions. Everyone thinks in a particular way—each of us has a predominant mindset—and your attitude is the outward manifestation of that thinking. Think of it this way: if behaviors are a house, your mindset is your foundation and your attitudes are the walls, which others can see and interact with.
Your attitude determines how you react to and interact with others. As a leader, it can make or break your relationship with your employees, colleagues, and customers. There are three essential attitudes: Flyer, Fighter, and Influencer.
It’s important to identify which attitude you have—and adjust it, if necessary—because your attitude dramatically affects the outcome of all your professional interactions.
The first attitude to consider is the Flyer. As the name implies, the Flyer reacts to a fight-or-flight situation with flight. The Flyer may have the power or authority to be more proactive, but instead they choose to avoid the situation, complain, or adopt an attitude of victimhood.
To understand how this attitude might manifest, let’s return to our opening story. Imagine that the CEO has just burst into the director’s office, snapping him out of the bliss of his deep work session. After the CEO snaps at him, the director responds by making excuses about why he wasn’t at the meeting: “I didn’t have the chance to check my emails,” or “Someone asked me to work on something super-urgent.”
With each excuse and deflection, the Flyer director has created the conditions of his own victimhood. He does whatever he can to deflect blame from himself. Rather than confront the situation, he runs from it.
As you can imagine, this instinct to run or create excuses can negatively affect your professional situations and prevent you from reaching a productive resolution.
To explore the next attitude, the Fighter, let’s rewind the situation once again. The CEO has just stormed into the director’s office and begun yelling at him. This time, the CEO hasn’t confronted the Flyer director—he’s facing off against the Fighter director. The moment the CEO calls him out for missing the meeting, the director starts pushing back.
“What are you trying to say? That I’m lazy?” the director sneers.
Of course, behind this tough-guy veneer, the truth is that, just like the Flyer, the Fighter is afraid of looking bad. By leaning into the conflict, he’s actually distracting the other person from the core issue—and therefore deflecting the criticism.
Aside from deflecting, sometimes the Fighter can outright distract. “Oh, like you’re so great,” a Fighter might say, “you can’t even manage a consistent meeting schedule!” By pointing out the other person’s flaws, the Fighter hopes to look better by comparison.
If you have a Fighter attitude, you’ll want to adjust it ASAP because this type of aggressive reaction can easily damage relationships and cause a toxic work environment.
Lastly, we have the Influencer, which differs from the first two attitudes in a significant way.
Both the Flyer and the Fighter act out of fear—fear of being wrong, fear of being fired, or fear of being publicly embarrassed. The Flyer and the Fighter are manifestations of a fixed mindset, focused on reacting rather than on learning. Fixed mindsets create attitudes where individuals are unwilling to see the other side or participate in growth opportunities, which are antithetical to a healthy, supportive company culture.
Once you become aware of Flyers’ and Fighters’ attitudes, you begin to see how common they are in a business setting—and how much they can impact organizational culture. By contrast, our third attitude, the Influencer, arises from a growth mindset.
In our example, when confronted with a challenging situation, the Influencer director seeks out ways to support and teach others, as well as opportunities to better himself. He approaches the situation with curiosity rather than with conflict, first seeking feedback from other team members on how to best approach the situation, and then invites the CEO to a calm, rational conversation.
In choosing this path, the Influencer director understands that even this problem has presented an opportunity for growth and learning, and he is much more interested in growth—his and the CEO’s—than in being right.
In this way, an Influencer attitude is deeply aligned with a culture of love. An Influencer’s calm and focus on learning extends around them like a gravitational pull. People want to be around that kind of energy. It becomes a physical manifestation of a growth mindset.
Decide Which Attitude You Want to Have
Now that you understand the differences between the Flyer, Fighter, and Influencer, ask yourself: which attitude do I want to have? Which will help me create the healthiest culture at my company and drive my business toward success?
In most professional situations, having an Influencer attitude will get you the best results. To ensure that you demonstrate this attitude, the next time you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation at work, take a moment afterward to assess your attitude.
How did you see yourself in that moment? What did you do (or not do) that leads you to feel that way? Do you think others perceived your attitude the same way? Why or why not?
It can be difficult to change from a Flyer or Fighter into an Influencer, but by being conscious of your reactions and aware of how others perceive you, you can begin to shift your behavior in a productive direction.