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Business Leaders, Give Yourself This Mirror Test

What’s the number one quality a leader, at any level, can’t live without?

Intelligence? Charisma? The ability to see around corners? The possible answers are myriad.

But above all, I would argue, in good times, and especially in bad, it’s positive energy. Nothing matters more. You can’t come to work with your head down, scared. You might have a lot of fears about the competition, or what’s happening out there in the market, or you might have some problems at home. Leave the problems at home, home, and leave the fears in the back of your head.

Now I don’t mean you have to be a cheerleader out there blindly cheering with the rain coming in the windows. But you have to relentlessly exude a can-do attitude — “We can do it.” “No matter what comes our way, we, together, can do it.” You’ve got to be out there, all the time, saying that. “We’ve got to win!” has to be your mindset and you can never let go of it.

The last thing you want to do is be a bore. When you wake up in the morning, give yourself a good mirror test. If you look like you’re going to be a sulking, pouting bore, slap yourself in the face before you go out to the office. Don’t come in to work with your head down, droning on. It’d be like a football coach coming to a game — because business is a game, too — saying, “Well, we don’t have a chance. The other team is too good. They’re too strong. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

That coach wouldn’t be around long. And you shouldn’t be around long as a manager either with that attitude. No one wants to feel like they’re in the losing locker room where everyone has their head in a towel. You have to create the atmosphere of a winning locker room where the champagne is being popped — as often as you can. You have to rally the team to come up with solutions — be they game-changing ideas or small innovations. Now, you won’t have every solution, but you want your team coming in every day driven to find them and unwilling to let up until they do. And it’s your job to make an example of the people who do that — highlight them, show them off as the type of person you want around.

Otherwise, you’ve lost the game — not to mention your team’s hearts and minds — before you’ve even stepped on the field.

Jack Welch is Executive Chairman at the Jack Welch Management Institute and Senior Advisor to CD&R’s funds. Suzy Welch is a best-selling author, popular television commentator, and noted business journalist.