The key attitude that defines leadership


When engineers building a train tunnel through a Japanese mountain discovered they had a problem with leaking water they could simply have pumped it away. Instead they bottled it and sold it as mineral water, building a brand worth over $50m/year.

When Alexander Fleming discovered that one of his culture dishes had grown mould instead of bacteria he could simply have thrown it away or made sure it was cleaned properly next time. Instead he took a closer look and discovered penicillin, saving millions of lives.

When Georges de Mestral came home from a walk to find his clothes and dog covered with burrs he didn’t just remove them: he looked closely at how they worked and then invented Velcro.

And when Travis Kalanick and a friend couldn’t get a cab in Paris one day they didn’t just complain about it, they founded Uber. The rest, as we know, is history.

We’ve all faced situations like this that didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to. But we haven’t all responded the way these people did.

These four examples all seem very different on the surface. But what they all share in common is the inner attitude of the person involved: they all looked for ways to turn their ‘problem’ into an opportunity.

This difference in their inner attitude is what made the difference to their outer results.

And it is this attitude, to look for the opportunities in a situation, that is the attitude that defines ‘leadership’.

Chapter 3 of Inner Leadership describes the ten types of opportunity that might exist in any situation. If you know what they are you can look for them. It also describes the benefits that come simply from looking for these opportunities, whether you find them or not.

Are you facing any ‘problems’ at the moment? Would you like to know how to look for the opportunities they might represent?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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