We don't have to wait for a New Year to seize the opportunity to launch out on a new path or new direction. We often respond to the freshness of a New Year by making a list of resolutions, which are often short lived. Rather than making a list of resolutions why not focus your attention in one area and settle on one thing in that area and do it well. We don't have to wait until January to do this, we can begin at any time during the calendar year. As an example, let's take leadership as a focus and identify "inspirational leadership" as a specific quality for attention.
The word inspiration has its root in Latin and originally had a deep spiritual meaning relating to divine guidance. Applying the word to "inspirational leadership" means you become a guiding light for others to follow. You become an example or a model for others; you stimulate, encourage and lift up the spirits of others.
Inspirational leaders inspire followers. They have a certain charisma, an aura about them that lights the fire within the hearts and minds of others. Followers place their trust in them and want to imitate their behaviours because they inspire them to do so.
I can think of numerous inspirational leaders who have graced our world, such as: Jesus Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. These leaders inspired people of their time and continue to inspire us today. Through their inspiration they created movements that changed the course of history. I don't want to put limits on our potential but realistically the majority of us will not achieve the same status as these giants of inspirational leadership. Most of us, however, can become "everyday" inspirational leaders.
Think about the people in your life who never made the news, wrote a book, had someone write their biography, or stood way above the crowd, yet they inspire you to become a better person, reach higher levels of performance, or improve the way you do things. You feel blessed as a result just by knowing them. These are the "everyday" inspirational leaders. Here are some of my own examples of people who have inspired me:
These people are "everyday" inspirational leaders. They inspire, not because they amass great sums of tangible assets but, because they radiate those illusive intangible qualities worthy of imitating.
Action: As you ponder on how you can strengthen your inspirational leadership style, use your models - the ones who inspire you - and pick out the intangible quality that you can strengthen in the coming year. Clearly identify it, and ask yourself how you will measure your progress. When this quality becomes ingrained in the way you act you will become more of an inspiration to others - you will be on the road to becoming the "everyday inspirational leader" you are meant to be.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC - Up-dated from the archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions.
Note: Photo by M. O'Neill
Leaders inspire others by getting them to act in ways they wouldn't normally act. They encourage others to change, innovate, create, and to "think and do big". Inspiration comes from the Latin word meaning to "breathe into" and "to impart a truth or idea to someone". It also has a supernatural connotation meaning that the Spirit moves or animates our lives to achieve a higher purpose. Generally workplace leaders inspire others to reach higher levels of performance so that they can be the best they can be under any circumstance. Here are six ways in which you can develop your ability to inspire others.
1 Live your vision. Leaders inspire others with their vision and values and they show what they believe by their behaviour. It is one thing to articulate a vision and identify a set of values. It is another to let your behaviours tell the story. Behaviours don't lie. Behaviours tell more about us than our words. They show that the leader "walks the talk" to use an old hackneyed phrase. When leaders live their vision and values through consistent behaviour others follow. Pick any leader of note such as Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Pope Francis, or Bill Gates and you will find that their dreams are played out in real time through their behaviours. Leaders inspire others by living their vision and values through example.
2 Encourage others. We have a saying in our business, "we have a simple business, but it isn’t easy." When we strip everything away life is simple but often it isn't easy either. Our work too may be simple but it isn’t always easy. There is an ebb and flow in who we are and what we do. Leaders inspire others to become the best that they can be no matter what the situation. Leaders encourage others in the ebb tide, where rough spots occur or when something happens that takes them off course. In these situations it doesn't matter how much knowledge leaders have, people want to know that the leader takes a personal interest in them. They want to know that their leaders care.
3 Inspire oneself. Leaders who inspire associate themselves with other inspiring and successful leaders. They enjoy reading about inspiring people and try to emulate their behaviour. Inspiring leaders know that it takes effort to inspire. They hang inspiring posters (and change them up on a regular basis); save inspiring quotes and post them for themselves and others to read; align themselves with inspiring mentors and coaches; and work hard to build up their work environment and avoid tearing it down. Inspiring others comes from within and leaders find ways to nurture and develop their inspirational self.
4 Tell stories. People are interested in life stories told in a compelling and clear manner. Story tellers get boring facts out by weaving facts with examples - they paint a picture letting the facts tell the story. Facts become part of the story. Someone once said, "facts tell, stories sell." Along with the story come pictures or graphs that add an explanation mark, a surprise or a call to action. Story tellers are not afraid to use parables or analogies to get their point across. Leaders are not afraid to share their own stories about how they dealt with similar situations, not to brag or boast, but to humbly explore and inspire others to reach a higher level of performance. Great teachers tell stories so do great leaders; they paint vivid mind pictures that others can visualize, latch on to and act with renewed confidence.
5 Challenge people. To rise up to the top or become the best that one can be requires challenges. If we look to those who have succeeded in sports, arts and business we see that they constantly challenge themselves to reach higher levels of performance. They are not satisfied with the status quo. Leaders challenge others to improve behaviour, overcome obstacles and to rise above mediocrity. Strong leaders challenge others with empathy. They confront with care or to use a term first coined by Dr. Harris Stratyner, PhD, they use “carefrontation”. Stratyner uses carefrontation as a route to healing additions but leaders can easily apply the concept as they challenge others to take on new behaviours.
6 Share Your Reading. All leaders are wide readers. They are informed and when they read something that will help others they are willing to share what they have read with others. They willingly share a book, an article that has given them insight into an issue or just simply inspired them.
Build your inspiration muscle by exemplifying your vision and values, encouraging others when they’re down, giving yourself an inspirational boost, telling vivid stories, challenging people with care, and sharing what you read with others.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC