Professor touts positivity, humor in leadership

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — A good attitude is the key to leading a successful team in the workplace.


That was the message Purdue University professor Rodney Vandeveer delivered during a workshop titled “Leadership is an Attitude” hosted jointly by the Purdue Technical Assistance Program and Vincennes University Jasper Campus on Friday.

Vandeveer spoke to a group of about 15 managers and supervisors from local businesses about ways to improve their leadership techniques by adjusting their attitudes.

“An attitude is a way that we choose to communicate our moods,” Vandeveer said. “Not everything in the business world is funny, but usually it’s not as bad as we think it is. We want to try to be positive and try to find the sense of humor in the things that happen.”

He also advised the group to “play the winners,” or emphasize the aspects of their job that they and their employees have been doing well instead of focusing on what has gone wrong.

“As leaders, we think we have to find people who are doing things wrong and chastise them. I think for the most part, people want to do a good job and they will do a good job if you trust them to do a good job,” Vandeveer said. “Don’t go broke promoting your losers.”

Matrix Integration sales operations manager Gail Peckenpaugh identified with that piece of advice. She said she wants to help her team members avoid discouragement when they receive customer complaints about mistakes.

“You don’t hear about the 90 things you do right for the customer. Unfortunately, you hear the one or two things you did wrong and that just impacts your attitude, impacts your day,” she said.

She appreciates the upbeat, constructive attitude her employers have shown to her and hopes to extend that attitude to those who she oversees.

“Being optimistic, positive ... works a lot better than passing the blame or making it somebody else’s problem. It’s not just about development for myself but it’s the development that we need to bring back into the team continuously to grow and improve. It is part of our core values (at Matrix),” she said.

Vandeveer also advised that supervisors simplify both their personal and professional lives by learning to prioritize and say “no” to extra obligations and maintaining a balance between career and family.

“You’re generous with your time and sometimes overcommit your efforts and become counterproductive,” he said.

Finally, Vandeveer encouraged the supervisors to project a positive attitude to others. When the participants arrived, he asked each to give him a smile. He suggested they perform one act of kindness for someone else each day, make a list of their own positive qualities and learn from their failures because there is no way to be an effective leader without having the respect of employees.

“Leadership is the art and science of getting the job done through the willing efforts of others,” he said. “People give you the right to lead them, and if you don’t do a good job, what can they do? Take it away.”

Curt Sanders, a supervisor at Indiana Furniture, has more than 35 years of management experience but attended Vandeveer’s workshop to get a fresh take on leadership techniques.

“I’ve sat through a lot of different classes and stuff, but it’s always good to come back because when you take the log out of the fire, it cools off,” Sanders explained. “It’s good to go through a refresher and get your focus in place.”

Purdue TAP will continue to partner with VUJC for two more workshops this fall. Local Purdue TAP business and account manager Adam Auffart said the training opportunities his organization is able to offer bring a needed service to the many companies in the Dubois County area.

“We’re really motivated to go out and take our resources and help save companies money and basically improve their bottom lines,” Auffart said. “The leadership series are really a nice complement to the things we do because a bad manager is going to lead to employees leaving.”

Contact Claire Moorman at

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