Leadership Attitudes

Attitudes are positive or negative feelings about people, things, or issues. People behave according to their attitudes. Sometimes even our attitudes determine other peoples’ behavior. I would like to suggest theories about leadership attitudes and what kind of impact they may have.

Theory X and Theory Y 

Theory X and Theory Y were first explained by McGregor in his book, “The Human Side of Enterprise,” and they refer to two styles of management – authoritarian (Theory X) and participative (Theory Y).

These theories are about an attempt to explain and predict leadership behavior and performance based on the leader’s attitude about followers.

Theory X Attitude: 

Leaders think that employees dislike work.

Employees must be closely supervised and told what to do or not to do.

In this style of management, managers display more coercive, autocratic leadership.

Managers use external means of control, such as threats and punishment to make employees do what they want.

Theory Y Attitude:

Leaders think that employees like to work and have the motivation to complete their tasks.

Employees do not need to be closely supervised because they know their duties and have a high sense of responsibility.

Managers display more participative leadership, as they allow their employees to be involved in serious meetings, express their ideas, solve problems and take decisions.

Managers use internal means of control to increase employees’ motivation, such as rewards and bonuses.

Pygmalion effect 

The Pygmalion effect is a psychological phenomenon wherein high expectations lead to improved performance and on the contrary. 

 Its name comes from the story of Pygmalion, a mythical Greek sculptor. That carved a statue of a woman and then fall in love with it. Pygmalion asked Aphrodite, the goddess of love to make her alive. Aphrodite took pity and brought the statue to life. The couple married and had a daughter, Paphos.

The main idea of this story is that everything can become true if we believe in it. That’s why Pygmalion Effect proposes that leaders’ attitudes and expectations towards followers, and their treatment of them, explain and predict followers’ behavior and performance.

In 1965 Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson conducted an experiment in elementary school, which proves the importance of the Pygmalion Effect.

“In 1965 the authors conducted an experiment in a public elementary school, telling teachers that certain children could be expected to be “growth spurters,” based on the students” results on the Harvard Test of lnflected Acquisition.

In point of fact , the test was nonexistent and those children designated as “‘spurters'” were chosen at random. What Rosenthal and Jacobson hoped to determine by this experiment was the degree (if any) to which changes in teacher expectation produce changes in student achievement.”

You can read and download the whole article about this experiment here


Self-concept theory refers to the positive or negative attitudes people have about themselves. Self-concept has a huge impact on our behavior. Because our attitudes about ourselves determine our behavior, motivation, etc.

Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s own capability to perform in a specific situation.

Both are closely related to self-confidence, the belief that one can be successful.

Developing a More Positive Attitude and Self-Concept

  • Consciously have and maintain a positive, optimistic attitude
  • Push out pessimism & cultivate optimism
  • Stop complaining
  • Avoid negative people
  • Set and achieve goals
  • Focus on success and don’t dwell on failure
  • Accept compliments
  • Don’t belittle your accomplishments
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Think for yourself
  • Be a positive role model 
  • When things go wrong, help others who are worse off than you

See more articles about Leadership here

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