I recently had the honor of participating in a leadership development program led by a Dale Carnegie representative. In the training, we were asked to name the leadership traits of an individual we admire. Each trait was then categorized under one of three groupings – skill, knowledge, or attitude. With 15 traits on the board, 13 of them fell under attitude. Surprised? Consider Kenneth Parcell.
Kenneth was an NBC page at 30 Rock tasked with countless menial and seemingly degraded chores. While many of us would have quickly quit this job, Kenneth’s all-encompassing love of television was exhibited through his excessive positivity and diehard work ethic.
Do you know why I put up with this ‘pitiful job’, Mr. Donaghy, why I fetch these folks’ lunches and clean up their barfs? Cause they make television. And more then jazz, or musical theater, or morbid obesity, television is the true American artform.
Many of us look down on Kenneth. He was not the most intelligent of individuals and the staff took advantage of his good will and genial naiveté. However, Kenneth’s passion also made him an influential figure in the 30 Rock halls. He was a constant source of counsel and even as people made fun of him, Kenneth remained a trusted confidant for the head of NBC and for the Executive Producer and stars of the popular late night show, TGS with Tracy Jordan.
Kenneth’s attitude made him the most valued page and, eventually, <spoiler alert> the head of NBC. When we look back at the three leadership trait categories – skills, knowledge, and attitude – there’s no doubt that his attitude was his defining feature. As Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said in her commencement speech at New York University,
There is an unfortunate myth that success is mainly determined by something called ‘ability.’
Citing a well-renowned psychologist, Yellen then cited grit, perseverance and passion…all attitudes.
This is not to say that knowledge and skills are inconsequential. It’s just that they’re a given. We are all competing with people who are smart and capable. What makes you stand out is the attitude with which you conduct yourself. Are you pompous or humble? Negative or engaging? Selfish or a team player? This is how you distinguish yourself from the competition and garner a loyal following.
Keep learning, keep growing your skills, but do not ignore the power of a positive attitude. If you fail to do this, you will be bypassed on our career path. It may not seem fair that the opportunity was awarded to Ms. Personality, but she displayed the “it” factor while you worked with your door shut. Channel you inner Kenneth Parcell. Forge relationships. Offer the help co-workers. Exhibit your passion and excitement. Not only will it earn you respect, it’ll be more fun.