Inspiring. It’s a word most people think of as an important leadership quality.
But what does being an inspiring leader really mean?
Oftentimes when leaders imagine inspiring, they think of standing up in front of their team during a challenge and having the ability to motivate the masses; saying just the right words to make a powerful impact and move people into positive action. This is about them.
On the flip side, what would happen if leaders shifted their awareness to inspiring for the benefit of others?
I was so moved to read some of the things that were written. Among them were…
“Luke is helpful!”
“Luke is strong.”
“Luke is a great writer.”
“Luke makes people laugh a lot.”
“Luke is creative.”
Why is this so powerful?
Kids naturally look for the good in others. They also look for ways to have fun at every turn. They’re taught to work together and they do so willingly, even with near-strangers.
So what happens as we become adults and enter the working world? Time, age, and experience can make us jaded and teaches us that we have to look out for #1.
What if you chose to lead differently and focused on inspiring others?
A truly inspirational leader sees the best in each individual and the gifts they possess. Inspiring, in this sense, is a way of stimulating and lifting people to a new level of creativity and energy. It’s about seeing the greatness and value in someone and going the extra step of sharing this with them.
The purpose of this effort is twofold.
First, sharing the qualities you admire in someone will motivate them for general purposes, but can also build their self-esteem, or self-realization of their strength when they need it most. When employees feel inspired, they will go to great lengths to put forth their best effort.
In my former corporate life, I remember coming out of a particularly challenging meeting with our senior leadership team where I had to explain the direction my team was headed on an important enterprise-wide project. After the meeting, my boss pulled me aside. She said, “I’m always amazed by how unflappable you are in the face of dissension.”
Unflappable? That’s certainly not how I felt, but her comment was incredibly meaningful. She saw a strength in me that I didn’t see in myself and I still remember how confident I felt from then on.
The second purpose of inspiring is that it helps you focus on the good in others, which also makes you feel good. It’s pretty easy to find strengths in those we enjoy working with, but is more difficult with those we don’t like.
Here’s what I know for sure: You get what you expect. Some call this the self-fulfilling prophecy, but the fact is our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all interconnected.
Imagine the impact if you changed your expectations of others, especially those you have struggled to work with effectively. You may find that they have a strength that can be leveraged and you may discover some newfound respect for their abilities that changes your relationship.
Here are some ways to try this new brand of inspiring on for size:
- Observe those around you and intentionally look for their strengths and valuable qualities. Do this for each member of your team and those within your sphere of work. Write down your discoveries and keep them handy so you can share them appropriately.
- Find at least one redeeming quality for your office nemesis. This may be difficult, but when you focus on their positive attributes, it will change the way you interact with them moving forward!
- Share your thoughts authentically and in a timely fashion. When you notice someone doing something wonderful, by all means, tell them! Leaders often only call people out when they screw something up. Be a different kind of leader and point out the positives.
- Create opportunities to inspire others. Find some time to share at your next 1×1 meeting, or during a performance review, or when an employee comes to you feeling stuck or lacking confidence. Build them up and show them respect and they’ll support you with fierce loyalty.
- Keep it simple. You don’t have to make an elaborate speech in front of your whole company for your feedback to be meaningful. A quick hand-written note or email is a great start. If you can, talk with the person face-to-face so that they get the full impact of your message.
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” – Margaret Cousins
A workforce that feels inspired will be loyal, motivated, and productive. So, what are you waiting for? Go get your inspiring on!