What does it take to be an inspirational leader?
A few weeks ago I heard a CEO speak to his senior leaders. He was not the most dynamic speaker I’ve heard but he had three things that touched an inspirational nerve in his organization. He displayed a clear vision, deep ethical commitment (what we will not do with our customers), and was genuinely authentic.
We all know that we need to inspire individuals to get them to follow us and make that vision a reality.
In our book “What Inspirational Leaders Do” (Kindle 2008) we explore what inspirational leaders do to bring out the best in their teams. Specifically, we discuss several important needs or behaviors that you, as a leader, will need to know in order to inspire your team to work together to realize the vision you have for your organization.
The needs we have identified have arisen out of our work in coaching and developing business leaders all over the world. Over the last decade, we often began our first coaching session by asking, “What inspires you?” The answers to this question were compelling in that they typically reflected an individual leader’s deeply held values or needs. We subsequently grouped these needs into five categories that we call The Five Sources of Inspiration.
Incidentally, our observations were confirmed in part by seeing how this inspiring CEO galvanized action around his compelling vision.
The Five Sources of Inspiration
The need to:
1. Make a contribution to benefit individuals or the world-at-large. (Contribution)
2. Work in alignment with one’s highest values. (Character)
3. Engage one’s creative potential, to imagine a better way. (Imagination)
4. Be interpersonally moved or emotionally engaged to work toward achieving team goals. (Empathy)
5. Be acknowledged and affirmed for one’s unique talents and strengths, and engage those skills in meeting work challenges. (Expecting the Best)
Once engaged, these needs drive individuals to perform and produce at levels they previously may not have thought possible. A leader’s first step in inspiring others is to identify which source(s) of inspiration drive a particular individual and then appeal to that source.
That is the basic theme of our book and has been explored in this blog over the past five years.
How have others like friends, teachers, and mentors inspired the best in you and helped you realize your potential?
And, in turn, how do you inspire those around you?