How To Develop A Healthy Attitude

I'm at my best when I'm feeling happy, healthy and positive. Getting into this frame of mind helps me manage, even when things are difficult. Here are a few things I've learnt about developing and maintaining this optimal mindset.

Getting things done can take many forms, but it can sometimes feel like it costs too much. These costs, like excessive fatigue, stress, anxiety or even fear are all negative consequences of an unhealthy attitude. 

Even a casual look at the research on bad workplaces, bullying or low performing organisations demonstrates conclusively that such environments diminish creativity and productivity.

The literature on personal effectiveness and productivity is equally clear. Disorganisation, multi-tasking, and a lack of stewardship of your internal resources and many other destructive habits will soon fry your ability to get things done.

Working this way makes no sense at all.

I think there are six core values that people with healthy attitudes demonstrate consistently.


1 Self Discipline

Focusing your attention consistently on your most important goals requires self-discipline. You need to create a way of keeping your focus clear, even when their are many other competing demands for your attention or your time and energy.

This doesn’t happen spontaneously. It requires effort and it requires that you stick with it.

When you take this seriously, then you are protecting yourself and your own scarce personal resources so that you can do more of what really matters.

2 Personal Development

You are constantly developing. New experiences deepen your knowledge and hone your skills. This is a continuous process and can be unconscious unless you reflect on it.

To make the most of this experiential learning it makes sense to be intentional about your own development. Some formal or semi-formal development will help you see your experience in new ways. It might improve your understanding and so prepare you better for the next time.

A reflective development process will help you make better future decisions, react better to events and cope more successfully with whatever happens. That’s why it matters that leaders attend to their own development.

3 Respect For Teamwork

In healthcare as in so many other organisations, teamwork is a fundamental part of delivering successful outcomes.

Teams work best when they understand their goals, when roles are clear and when individual members of the team are both respected for their contribution and trusted to do what is required. Objectives are developed with and by the team and success is defined at the team level.

When behaviour within your team matches these characteristics – good things happen.

4 Belief In Human Potential

In one organisation I worked in, access to some social media sites was forbidden. Staff responsible for complaints were off from important channels of customer feedback. Elsewhere a lot of frustration and disappointment was expressed at what was regarded as heavy handed control.

The implication behind the restriction is clear. We – the organisation don’t trust you to be responsible in your use of social media.

It’s is an example of believing the worst of people. There are many other ways that leaders can allow similar impressions to develop.

Rather than issuing prohibitions maybe it would be better to set expectations. Instead of attempting to exert control over people, maybe it would be better to empower people to do the job you’re asking them to do to the best of their abilities. You’ll still spot the people who don’t respond responsibly.

Leaders have a choice. Some will be motivated by their fears: healthy leaders choose to be driven their hopes.

5 The Power Of Positive Psychology

Understanding that happiness drives success – rather than the reverse is a radical research finding. It underlines the large evidence base which confirms that healthy working environments make for more creative, safer and productive organisations.

You can check out some books about this topic here.

A healthy organisation has a fully engaged workforce. The benefits of an engaged workforce are measurable. Here are some of the (healthcare data) research findings.

Healthy leaders set the tone and define what kind of behaviour is expected and tolerated. These leaders will hold themselves accountable for safeguarding these principles – starting with their own behaviour.

6 Acceptance Of Complexity And What This Entails

Healthcare is a really complex business. It’s usually the case that many people must combine their various clinical, therapeutic, technical, administrative, and support service expertise to deliver high-quality results.

This creates great complexity – so there is wisdom in accepting that it’s not possible to ‘know’ everything as a leader. This is one of the reasons why trust is so important.

When faced with a problem there are basically two ways to go, with lots of middle ground between. Some organisations respond when problems appear by immediately commissioning plans to deal with them.

Other organisations commission teams to investigate the problem and develop responses by cycling through small tests of change, learning and adapting until they have found something which is an improvement.

The first response does have it’s place. If there’s an issue that requires fast action for reasons of safety – it could well be appropriate to respond like this. In many cases though these quick fixes have squeaky wheels and quite often the issue will be back in the repair shop.

The major insight a healthy leader has obtained is that the world is complex and for every action there is usually at least one and sometimes several unexpected responses. Organisations are systems, not machines.

Instead of believing it’s possible to see into the future and know what solution is appropriate, it’s far better – and more engaging – to invite those who know most about the problem to come together and develop a response.


  1. West, Michael (2015) Leading cultures that deliver high quality care.
  2. West, Michael, Dawson Jeremy F (2012) Employee engagement and NHS performance

  3.  David MacLeod, Nita Clarke, (2010) Leadership and employee engagement: passing fad or a new way of doing business?, International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, Vol. 6 Issue: 4, pp.26-30, doi: 10.5042/ijlps.2010.0634 –
  4. BMJ (2010) Rudeness at Work
Question: Are there other aspects of being a healthy leader that you think are important?