What you do when you don’t have to will determine what you’ll be when
you can’t help it — William D. Hersey
In his book, The Grace Awakening, Charles Swindoll tells a story about
Thomas Jefferson and a group of companions who were travelling across
country on horseback. They came to a river which had left its banks
because of a recent downpour. The swollen river had washed the bridge
away. Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting
for his life against the rapid currents.
The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused
a traveler who was not part of their group to step aside and watch.
After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the
stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the
river. The president agreed without hesitation. The man climbed on,
and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other
As the stranger slid off the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group
asked him, “Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this
favor of?” The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the
president who had helped him. “All I know,” he said, “is that on some
of your faces was written the answer ‘No,’ and on some of them was
written the answer ‘yes.’ His was a ‘yes’ face.
Maintaining a ‘yes face’ attitude can be challenging, even for the
best of leaders. How do you have a ‘yes face’ when surrounded by ‘no’
attitude mindsets? Here are four keys to get you started.
Your attitude is one of your strongest leadership assets. It will make
you or break you. Not only will it set the tempo for how your day goes
but often it will be the thermostat by which others adapt around you.
You cannot prevent the unexpected nor can you wave a magic wand to
make all the jerks you deal with go away. But when you choose to rise
above it then the ‘no face’ attitudes can’t touch you. Each day you
have to decide that you will have a ‘yes face’ attitude regardless of
what comes your way.
The company you keep is one of the most important decisions you will
make as a leader. Many people will occupy space in the margins of your
day. It can be vendors who come and go, temps in the office, or other
people you may not regularly have contact with who carry with them a
‘no face’ attitude. But the company you keep; especially your inner
circle will reflect your ‘yes face’ attitude and quite possibly will
have it themselves. Be careful who you let in and never hesitate to
make adjustments. The company you keep should reflect the same
attitudes and values that you expect as a ‘yes face’ leader.
The confidence you possess and portray as a leader is the byproduct of
a ‘yes face’ attitude that is indicative of your strength. The signal
of a ‘yes face’ attitude is how people in your organization get the
confidence they need to move forward. Jefferson’s confidence is what
caused the stranger to desire to ride across the river with him. Your
confidence is what will cause others to want to be around you. Never
underestimate nor neglect the value of quiet confidence as part of
your leadership skill set. Give your people the example they need.
Lead with quiet confidence and let your ‘yes face’ attitude shine.
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. When you lead with
uninhibited courage you are signaling that your passions run deep,
your values are clear, and your purpose is resolute. The courage of a
‘yes face’ attitude is defined not by the lack of challenges or
obstacles but by an attitude and determination that will face them
down. Courage will take you farther, enable you to accomplish more,
and give you a competitive edge to succeed.
A ‘yes face’ attitude will not give you immunity from problems or
aggravations, but it will give you the right frame of mind to face and
overcome them. Choose a ‘yes face’ attitude and elevate your
Do you have a ‘yes face’ attitude?
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at