Inspiring Leaders to responsible Motivation, Growth and Productivity
As we close the books on 2010 and get ready to start a new Leadership journey for 2011 a question asked by a good friend this year is still looming in the wings.
The seemingly simple question he asked me early this year was “How do leaders inspire others?”
When I think about inspirational leaders, I think of others in my life that helped push me beyond what I thought was possible. When you’re asked the question “WHO” is an inspiring leader for “YOU” it is usually easy to name one of the people pictured above and describe why they fit into that deserved category. They all displayed an action that over time was memorable and unique. It was distinctive enough to be remembered and defining in its nature to the point where it has separated them from the rest of society.
Do you remember the last time you were challenged as a leader to do something really great, something that you didn’t realize was possible or that you were capable of doing?
This year we saw 38 miners in Chile that were trapped and survived to be rescued 69 days later after NASA and many others joined in to help. This was followed by one of the rescued miners, Edison Pena, finishing the New York City marathon just weeks after being rescued.
President Obama and the US military fulfilled the promise to remove the last American combat troops from Iraq, giving us hope that the seven year war has finally come to a close. Both events will historically be recorded in the future with moments of leadership inspiration leading to their accomplishments.
Conversely, a world wide catastrophe to the environment was ended as the 86 day BP oil spill was finally stopped after multiple attempts to cap the well head. We watched “live” as oil billowed out from below the ocean surface spreading to areas of the Gulf of Mexico and the US coastline. Leaders from British Petroleum, Halliburton and the regulatory organizations have done everything in their power to discount their accountability into the events and responsibility for the actions.
So we ask ourselves “what separates these two types of Leaders from each other to demonstrate the skills and characteristics of inspiration”?
A system of skills based upon passion, purpose, listening and meaning can help make a leader inspirational. The ability to clearly communicate that passion, purpose and meaning to others can also help establish the inspirational community of practice required for your organization. Current popular publications describe the need for Leaders to do a couple of things very well to be self defining –Not Everything!
So after review and synthesis of the current material on Inspiration I have distilled it down to 8 areas of focus that can help you become more inspirational. Let me share with you this formula of skills and characteristics to put you on the right path. These are in no specific order:
Clarify the Purpose –
An inspirational leader has a very strong, customer-focused vision of where the organization should be going. They are able to communicate this Vision so that their people feel they own it and know where they fit into it to achieve exceptional results. These leaders are great communicators of the Purpose of the organization, its people and the interconnections of those in plain speaking. The ability to achieve better results, with fewer resources is a constraining paradox and the cultural purpose that is recognized as a path to organizational success. They make the time to get out and speak to their people about the path not to take, not just telling people to do the right thing.
Communicate your Passion –
The inspirational leader feels passionately about the vision and mission of their organization. They are able to share that passion in a way that enables others to feel passionate also. The nature of the vision and mission is essential for enabling others to feel as if their work has meaning beyond the tasks performed each day. You must help others connect the dots by explaining the big picture to others. Communicating and if necessary over communicating the big picture regularly will help reinforce clarity about the reason the organization exists. Finally be expressive about what it is that moves you to your personal Journey.
Engage in Dialog –
An inspirational leader listens to the people in the organization. Talking to people about the passion is not enough to share meaning. To share meaning, you must allow the ideas and thoughts of the people to be heard by open input. People need to see their ideas incorporated to have stronger buy-in or understand why their ideas were not used. As a role model for your people, you must set an optimistic tone and temper. This should be reinforced weekly through public communication by email or staff meetings that let everyone know what you're doing and its impact on how the organization is progressing.
Be Flexible but Persistent –
People who inspire have a defined tendency to “Challenge the rules” in a positive way without breaking them. They take calculated risks and are guided by both their gut-feel instincts and logical inputs. They also tolerate this in other people, recognizing that a certain amount of abstract flexibility is essential to adapt to dynamic circumstances and continue to make forward progress. Leaders that create balanced and sustainable value are very good at ensuring that the organization only does those things that are valuable to the business, without being diffused by a lack of goal clarity.
Acknowledge others –
Remember that reward and recognition is critical to individuals, teams and other leaders but it must be done in a way that is not destructive to others. Inspirational Leaders acknowledge and reward others. If your people are engaged in individual accomplishments, then you must reward those accomplishments. When your doing that, go to their location and reward them personally. If that’s not possible, send them a note or personal communication explaining how you recognize their performance. Share the spotlight and ask for feedback from others to refine a combination of competencies. This can increase the overall exponential ability to inspire others where the sum is greater than the whole.
Foster a Mindset of Success –
Inspirational Leaders are involved and lead thru example to exert persistent effort in attaining high performance goals. This is a culture where people focus on the results and learn from mistakes. It is recognized that enthusiasm is contagious and can create and optimistic but realistically balanced atmosphere to demonstrate the characteristics required to motivate and move an organization forward in a positive direction. Inspirational Leaders take the time to be visionary, motivational, strategic and humble. These are all exceptional qualities but motivation is the internal and external factor that can stimulate desire and energy in people to be continuously committed to creating exceptional results. Daily, you experience triumphs and defeats, exhibited by succeeding in one situation and falling on your face in another.
Create Positive and Sustainable Values –
What singles out others that inspire is an exceptionally strong set of values built on honesty, openness and true respect for others. Those that inspire, promote a culture where their people value themselves, each other, the organization and their customers. They share what is the accepted responsible behavior they expect and request accountability. The word “Inspiration” is also defined as putting life into something that had been lifeless previously. To do this, requires the inspirational leader to help develop others thru delegation and coaching. When people know that you are giving them confirmation for performance, they feel a heightened sense of ownership and responsibility for their performance and execution to goals.
Connect and Collaborate with others –
To experience inspiration, people need to feel included, which goes beyond listening and feedback. Show your positive human side to others. Being accessible is a good start, but you must show that you can be approached with both good and bad news. These inspirational leaders approach each situation with humility which allows others to make strong goal based connections. They are extremely committed and courageous when necessary and demanding of themselves and others in a calming but direct way. What you’re trying to establish is Trust and Openness by feeling strongly connected with the actions and processes that are linked to the organizations, decisions, and goals.
Mahatma Gandhi said “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” He believed that by reasoning and thinking he could arrive at the “truth” of any matter – so you must be a leader who demonstrates inspiration by your actions.
In Summary, the role of an Inspirational leader is to provide a challenging vision which has a connected, positive strategic alignment. You must help people connect their individual and personal goals to the organizational goals. To accomplish this, requires you to embrace a personal mindset to make a difference. This will require new courage and self confidence to train everyone around you to be a leader. This means moving them from ordinary to extraordinary. You must relentlessly make collaboration a cultural norm for everyone, not just a select few.
In more than 10 years of personal interviews with over 150 premiere youth leaders, I have asked the question of “who is the most inspirational leader in your life”. In over 50% of the responses, the answer was my mother or father. Another 10% named a family member. It’s amazing to find out that inspiration can be, and in many cases is as close as your front door. So parents already display characteristics of Inspiration at home, but something happens when they walk in the door at modern organizations. They find themselves challenged to perform and execute meaningful contributions. Inspiration is proposed as the most powerful of all leadership competencies but there are some basic skills that all leaders can easily embrace to become inspirational.
Leaders must empower and trust others to take balanced risks to succeed and fail. This will require unlearning & re-learning from their failures to achieve ultimate success. This journey should energize people to achieve and share. Together, embracing these actions can help transform you into an inspirational leader and take your organization in new directions. To find your leadership sweet-spot, create a checklist of your leadership strengths and weaknesses. Start with a couple of weaknesses and develop them into strengths. At the same time take a couple of your characteristic strengths and take them to the next level. Embrace what makes your character unique and create a new personal capability of Inspiration.
Dale S. Deardorff