Psychologist and Nazi prison camp survivor Viktor Frankl, wrote in his book ‘Man’s search for meaning’, of the, “men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This freedom, he went on to say, makes it clear that, “the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner-decision and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally then, any man can, under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually.”

Everything is an opportunity

I’ve talked before about the importance for leaders of having a ‘growth mindset’ versus a ‘fixed mindset’ and Frankl captures that idea perfectly. In essence, it is the difference between someone who sees everything around them as an opportunity and every experience as a chance to learn and build their character; whereas someone without that attitude believes their character is fixed and there is nothing to be gained by challenging their assumptions and established way of thinking.

I’m a big fan of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’: “If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster; And treat those two impostors just the same…” Having the right attitude to life runs throughout this famous poem and a feeling that if a human can cultivate the right attitude, they will always get by and will ultimately succeed, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…”

The importance of agile

For businesses, we hear a lot about needing to be more agile to succeed in today’s fast changing environment: how organisations need to move early; not get stuck; not be fixed in their thinking. Attitude has a core role to play here. To be agile, businesses must have the right systems and processes in place but, just as important, is the need to have the right attitude.

If a leader has aspirations for their business of agility, then they must do all they can to develop the right attitude by creating an environment where people are willing to reveal their vulnerabilities and be authentic; where the leaders themselves have acquired the skills and understanding to develop their own growth mindset – the right attitude – so they can be role models to everyone else throughout the organisation.