The desire to inspire

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

My very first boss made me laugh. Hard. As in, sometimes I’d have to leave the room to regain my professional composure because of one of his antics. And not only was he funny, he was a clear communicator, and praised my work with specific encouragement. He complimented me in front of others and took an interest in my personal life.  He and his wife treated me like family. In return, I was more than happy to work long hours, putting in extra effort whenever I could, and even babysat his children on numerous occasions in my free time.

He was an inspiring leader.

And in being so, I was motivated to develop a strong work ethic. We accomplished a lot of great things together. He made work fun and engaging and others were envious of my job.

Are you familiar with the attributes exercise? Take a moment and think of a person who has been an inspiration to you. It could be a mentor, or a teacher, a parent, or a friend…someone who has made an impact in your life. Jot down their name, then list the qualities about them that you admire most.

Now look at the attributes you wrote down.  Do these fall under IQ, intellect quotient, or EQ, emotional quotient?  It’s most likely that the attributes you noted are a competency of the latter, social + emotional intelligence. These competencies– self-awareness, self-management, other awareness, and relationship management — have a powerful impact on us.

One competency of emotional intelligence that has far-reaching effects on others is inspirational leadership.  It’s that ability to mobilize individuals and groups to want to accomplish the goals set before them. It comes in many different shapes and forms, and there are various methods (humor, being one) that feed inspiration. People who are inspiring are able to articulate goals clearly and stimulate enthusiasm for a clear, compelling vision. They have the ability to bring people together and create a sense of belonging. They know how to create  an emotional bond that helps others feel they are part of something larger than themselves.  They are able to invoke a sense of common purpose beyond the day-to-day tasks, making work exciting and something people want to be a part of.  Does this describe you?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Each of us is capable of increasing our ability to inspire others.  But there are some hurdles that can slow us down.  Which of these tends to trip you up?

  • You don’t have a clear vision for the future of your team/organization
  • You lose the big-picture view of the organization and get lost in the weeds
  • You aren’t a good team player
  • You are not passionate about your work or those you work with, thus aren’t able to create a sense of passion in others
  • You too often think your opinion is more important than others’ opinions
  • You tend to think work should be a “one-man-show” … you lead, they follow
  • You … (fill in the blank with your own stumbling block)

What’s great about emotional intelligence is that these competencies can be learned and developed.  If you’d like to become more inspiring as a leader, finding a social + emotional intelligence coach can be an asset.  As well, consider these tips:

  • Figure out what your vision is for your personal life as well as the vision of the organization you work with. Not sure?  Ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?  What is my company passionate about?”
  • Learn to put words to that vision and articulate it in a way that expresses your feelings around the vision.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge the status-quo.  Be creative; come up with fresh and innovative perspectives.
  • Ask yourself what you admire in a leader (the above attributes exercise will help!) so you can develop your own definition of inspirational leadership.
  • Open up high-level discussions to include your team members and value their input as substantive and valuable.
  • Look for ways to create opportunities for ownership in your vision with your team members.
  • Give specific compliments and don’t hold back praise for work well done. Most people thrive on kind words.
  • Avoid micro-managing, and give capable team and group members latitude to move things forward without needing your stamp of approval on each step of the project.
  • Evaluate if you are living in integrity — do your actions match your values? People are inspired by those who live out their belief systems in their day-to-day activities.
  • Keep it fun.  People like to laugh.  A sense of humor can go a long way in creating an engaging work environment.

Here I am, twenty five years later, and I still remember the gift of inspirational leadership my first boss bestowed upon me. And now, as I lead my own teams, I find myself trying to emulate his style to hopefully inspire those I work with.  Inspirational leadership has far-reaching effects that can carry over to the next generation of employees. Let’s all commit to taking a step forward in this competency this week.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

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