Good leadership is an exception, great leadership is rare. Think of the greatness of Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, JRD Tata, Malala, each of whom displayed inspiring qualities. They elicited emotional response, made people to align with their vision and cause, ignited imagination, and generated hope and enthusiasm in them. We all seek great leadership in our workplaces; leadership that inspires us and fires us up.
But, why do we need to be inspired? We need to be inspired to stretch ourselves; to exceed our own expectations, when nothing less would do. And what does inspiration result in? Inspiration results in higher productivity, greater satisfaction, more commitment, and lesser attrition. Great leaders know that. When employees are inspired, they move onward to greater achievements by overcoming challenges and fears.
Great people inspire those around them by who they are, what they do and what they did. John Quincy Adams was on target when he said, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader’.
Global surveys on leadership traits unambiguously point to inspiration as the trait most desired in a leader, now and in the future. Changing business models, flatter hierarchies, speedy communication, cross-functional teams and frontline focus require more and more a leadership style that is inspirational. Teaching traditional skills of strategy, execution, and motivation etc. will likely create a competent leader, but it will not prepare them to inﬂuence across generations and national lines. For that, nurturing behavioural dimensions is mandatory.
Inspirational skills are harder to define and measure when compared to performance skills. They typically require more learning, through self-reflection and experience. Inspirational skills are developed by taking the time to learn what matters to those you lead and working in the best interest of the team you are leading. At the heart of what it means to inspire is what John C. Maxwell observed, ‘People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision’.
Inspirational leadership is no easy task.
‘The good news is that inspirational leadership can be taught, and it can be learned. In fact, we all possess some of the qualities of inspiring leaders. The secret is to help leaders build upon the strengths they currently have and shore up any qualities that may compromise their ability to inspire. (December 2015, Harvard Business Review).
Each of us can be inspiring if we stand up for what we believe in, act with integrity, be a role model and lead by example, stay true to our words, be humble in our achievements and clearly demonstrate what we stand for.by