Attitude Makes all the Difference

By | December 6, 2018

[December 6, 2018]  It was 5am on a snowy January in southwestern Germany’s Black Forrest, many decades ago when I first encountered Sergeant “Bad Boy Mac” McCracken.  McCracken was known for his hot temper and miserable demeanor.  It took me only a few minutes to witness his bad attitude and the impact was to be significant.

I received a cell phone call from a good friend’s son a few days ago.  This young man was with four other friends; all in the U.S. Army Infantry stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia.  Each a Private with only a few months in the military, they were asking for my advice on how best to succeed and get promoted.

Rarely do I get these calls anymore but, of course, I was all too happy to spend a few minutes on the call with them.  I wanted them to remember what I said, so I gave them three simple, yet fundamental principles to live by in the Army:

  1. Obey the rules.
  2. Work hard.
  3. Have a good attitude.

It was the last point where we spoke most and also that generated the most questions.  “What’s a good attitude?”  “How do I show it?”  “Can you give me some examples?”  We talked for nearly an hour; much longer than any of us expected.

I began with my stories of Sergeant McCracken; truly a bad individual from southern Chicago and a mean-spirited man.  Although highly talented, “Bad Boy Mac” was a disruptive influence on the teamwork the unit’s leaders desired us to create and nurture.  We were all unhappy those many decades ago and were more concerned about averting his nastiness than getting our job done and creating a functioning fire team.

If there is anything that endears us to others, it’s a positive attitude.  Frankly, I told these young men that you can do just about anything if your attitude is right.  People are more forgiving, willing to help, and attracted to those who show a good attitude.  This is particularly necessary for leaders expecting to build teams and get their mission accomplished.

Sergeant McCracken never bent the rules and worked us hard.  His attitude problem however generated undue attention from the Battalion headquarters and soon we found ourselves being disciplined for failing to achieve the tasks given to us by the Platoon Leader.  Our Squad Leader and the rest of us missed our next promotions and we stayed on restricted duty for a month.

It’s important to have a good attitude; more than most of us would believe.  A poor attitude that is not adjusted quickly, can be a big problem.  The Privates told me they appreciated my stories and the advice.  I hope they will remember the Sergeant “Bad Boy Mac” story.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Attitude Makes all the Difference

  1. Willie Shrumburger

    Well written article on a subject that young folks like to ignore and like to reject advice on. I have a Milleniel generation young lady at work who is bossy, narcissistic, and often just nasty. I tried talking to her about it but to no good end.

    Reply
  2. Joe the Aussie

    You can learn this lesson the hard way or the easy way. Most good leaders learn it from simple experience and guidance. Many never learn that a good attitude matters.

    Reply
  3. Scotty Bush

    How to get and maintain a positive attitude and its benefits is one thing they no longer teach in school. They used to have a “civics” grade that was based on a subjective evaluation by the teacher on how well you got along with othes. Today, that is no longer allowed. Now look at the results. Hint: college snowflakes and their violent behavior when they hear something they don’t like.

    Reply
    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Our school system has failed our kids. And it’s not just through high school but also college. They don’t teach leadership either. I’m a teacher and athletic coach and I see the failure every single day.

      Reply
  4. Nick Lighthouse

    Loved your story about “Bad Boy Mac”. I too had one of these types give me a lot of trouble when I was in college. He was a bully that just couldn’t let go of his High School method of getting what he wanted. Eventually, he dropped out and everyone in the class were much happier.

    Reply
  5. Doug Smith

    Generally speaking, I have found that women have better attitudes than men. Note I said generally. There are also attitude differenes whether you live in a city or rural community, southern US or western US, older or younger, etc. The lesson is, however, that each person may be influenced by outside factors but ultimately it is their character that helps them with the right attitude.

    Reply
    1. Bryan Lee

      The point here, I think, is that your culture defines what a good attitude is or is not.

      Reply
      1. Gil Johnson

        Yep, you got that one right. Bryan, you have made the main point among all our comments.

        Reply
  6. Janna Faulkner

    Another good article to start my day. Thanks to General Satterfield.

    Reply
  7. Max Foster

    We’re address a fundamental concept when we speak of ‘attitudes.’ It goes to the heart of what makes us human; meaning our emotions and our motivations. Too many guide their behavior by their emotions when they should have the discipline to do what makes others appreciate and help them the most. Why not? Maybe it’s some psychological issue but I’ve found that those who train themselves properly will have a good attitude. It takes practice and more practice.

    Reply
  8. Albert Ayer

    I picked up on your number 1 rule, ‘obey the rules.’ Amazing the number of people who don’t do that. Any way, this post is really about a postiive attitude. Millions of words have been written on the subject and by now you would think people would pay attention. If they don’t, then don’t expect others to work well with you.

    Reply
  9. Drew Dill

    An execellent point, Army Captain. Many who want respect don’t really understand it and how attitude really does matter.

    Reply
  10. Army Captain

    The fact that attitude does make a difference is an understatement.
    I see too many young people with bad attitudes and they wonder why people don’t treat them with respect.

    Reply
    1. Maureen S. Sullivan

      Respect is linked with attitudes, that is a no brainer. Well said.

      Reply

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