It is three simple lines and the words I most connect to Maya Angelou. After I heard of her passing, they are the words I thought of . . .
“If you don't like something, change it.
If you can't change it, change your attitude.
Don't complain.”
- Maya Angelou
The advice is powerful and easy to agree with, yet difficult to apply. But if we do apply these words as leaders and human beings, we will be far more effective, make a much larger difference, and be healthier and happier too.
If every leader lived these words, the world would be a better place. But that isn’t my biggest point, nor do I think it is what Ms. Angelou would want you to focus on either. She’d want (and I want) you to take these words personally. Let’s look at each line through the lens of your work as a leader.
“If you don’t like something, change it.”
In your workplace, in your organization, there are things that are broken or things that are good but could be better. Changing them is the work of leadership. Ask yourself these questions . . .
• What is the problem or opportunity?
• What would make it better?
• What could we do to impact it, or make that change?
I know, you are the manager in the middle – you aren’t the CEO or the “big boss”. Guess what? Even if you are, you likely can’t make the change alone. Even though you don’t have complete control of making the change happen, you likely can influence it.
So get to it.
“If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Maybe it is outside of your ability to change. Or maybe you have tried everything you can think of to make the change.
I know, you still don’t like it. But if you can’t think of any other ways to change or improve it, the best answer is to let it go. Think about the situation in a new way. See what you can learn from it. Move past it. And remember that as a leader your attitude isn’t just yours, but a strong predictor of the attitude of your team.
“Don’t complain.”
How will complaining help? There might be a momentary value in the venting of your emotions, but if you do that around your team, you send the wrong message. If you must, find a confidante who will listen and then tell you to stop and get on with it. Once your brief pity party is complete, refer back to the first two lines.
When we model this approach for our team, we help them complain less and take more accountability for the situation and their emotions. No one really likes a complainer, and as I’ve already said, it won’t help anyway.
Ms. Angelou didn’t say these lines specifically for leaders, yet when we live this advice, we are leading, regardless of our job description. If you want to make a bigger difference for your team, your organization and your world, living her simple words will take you far.

Author's Bio: 

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Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. You can learn more about him and a special offer on his newest book, Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a time, at .