‘If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.’ – Henry Ford.
Never a more accurate word spoken! Whether you feel like you’re an inspirational leader to your team or not, mindset is everything.
The way we talk to ourselves sets the scene for our day. So, the capacity to become inspirational starts with how you speak to yourself. Once you have mastered it, you’ve already won half of the battle.
But what does it mean to be inspirational?
The definition of inspirational is ‘A person or thing that motivates mentally or emotionally.’
An example of an inspirational person and their impact on the world can be seen through Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. But there are many more. Fortune’s Greatest Leaders article includes a list of the most searched ones.
So, having established that being inspirational means having the quality to inspire, take a moment to reflect and consider this in two ways:
- Who have you found to be an inspirational figure in your life? (Particularly your work life) and why?
- When was the last time you inspired positive change as a leader?
I can imagine the latter is the more challenging part to conjure a thought about. But, this comes back to how we view and talk to ourselves. Hopefully, you’ve not needed to think for too long, but if you have, that’s ok.
On the flip side
Now we have unpicked the positive approach to inspiring others, let us flip that on its head. Have you had a leader that was not inspirational? Why? What made them uninspiring?
According to Forbes – The qualities of bad leaders, specific traits, attitudes, and behaviour result in terrible leadership. A lack of communication, failure to recognise achievement, and selfishness are not surprisingly featured on the list.
So how do we ensure you don’t fall into this category? Does a ‘one size fit all’ approach work? (Hopefully, we agree that this does not exist).
Be an inspirational leader rather than a manager.
There’s a vast difference between a leader and a manager. Many consider the leader of a group as the one who provides guidance. The manager, however, manages tasks and projects, not people.
Another distinction is the very fact that leaders do not have subordinates but instead have followers. These people believe what a leader does due to the respect they have earned. Most importantly, followers choose their leaders while their managers are mandated.
Can inspiration be measured?
In short, yes. Thrash and Elliot developed the “Inspiration Scale.” This “measures the frequency with which a person experiences inspiration in their daily lives (including work).” The more inspired a person is, the more likely they are to try new experiences and the more engaged they are with assigned tasks.
Additionally, there was no correlation between a person’s level of conscientiousness and how open to inspiration they were. As such, anyone can be inspired, not just those already wanting to do their job well.
Another interesting finding is inspired individuals typically have a stronger drive to master their work but are less competitive.
This desire to do a good job but not at the expense of ‘stepping’ on fellow team members helps build stronger teams that trust and work well with each other.
This study cannot be underrated when contemplating why and how to inspire your team.
What does an inspirational leader look like?
‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ - Maya Angelou.
The ability to inspire others is one of the most essential leadership skills that differentiates great leaders from average ones.
Leaders can infuse energy, passion, and purpose into their team’s behaviours. They motivate their team to want to be better. Coupled with this, they possess an unclouded vision that guides them in everything they do.
Although there is not a one size fits all approach to inspirational leadership, there is undoubtedly a clear set of qualities and behaviours that all of the most influential leaders possess:
- An innovative, forward-thinking approach
- Leaders dedicate a considerable amount of time to the role, with a focus on making work life better for everyone
- They demonstrate a person-centred approach, leading with the firm belief that people and their wellbeing matter the most
- They demonstrate authenticity
- They communicate clearly and effectively
- They give supportive, constructive feedback and help with ways to improve
- They radiate positivity consistently
- They are self-aware and willing to constantly improve themselves
- They believe in continuous solid professional development (CPD) opportunities
- They are passionate and knowledgeable in their field
- They are engaging and approachable
- They want their team to be successful and celebrate their wins too
Of course, the list could continue, but we feel these are the central, pivotal qualities that inspirational leaders demonstrate daily.
Key qualities explored
The importance of effective communication
RingCentral Inc. Culture Report found that 71% of employees who said they were more productive also felt well-connected to their colleagues and leaders.
These findings show that employees who communicate effectively are more productive. This might sound obvious as effective communication reduces errors and creates a more efficient process.
Effective communication has a more profound impact, however. It leaves everyone feeling more satisfied and involved in the decision-making process. Ultimately it makes people feel heard, even if the end decision does not align with their suggestion.
See Continuous Professional Development as an invaluable investment
As we’ve touched on, CPD is vital for invigorating, energising, and ensuring your team is constantly developing in terms of professionalism and knowledge.
It also helps promote a culture of independent learning, which results in more valuable achievements for each team member. In addition, they are much more self-driven and motivated, as they have autonomy over their professional learning.
As an inspirational leader, you acknowledge that your team is your greatest asset. Therefore, CPD is the most valuable investment to which you can devote finances. If your team feels you are adding value to them and their skills, they will, in turn, return this in many positive ways, such as increased productivity and more self-motivation to fulfil their role to the best of their ability.
The importance of self-reflection
Do not forget to add yourself to the list in the spirit of continuous improvement.
Leading by example is the most effective demonstration of a keenness to learn and improve. A significant part of inspiring others is the ability to self-reflect, hence knowing what you need to improve on.
Self-awareness is an essential trait of a great leader. By knowing your values, personality, needs, habits, and emotions and how they affect your actions and the actions of others, you will be better able to manage your stress, make better decisions, and lead others to do the same.
Do not be afraid to ask your team what they think are your strengths and weaknesses. It is always interesting to see how these align with your thoughts and opinions on yourself. Going into this exercise with an open mind, refusing to feel defensive and cautious, will open your eyes to a deeper level of much-needed self-reflection.
Understanding what qualities your team deems to be motivational for them will help create a happier, more positive relationship between you as the leader and them as your team. In addition, it will remove the superior/subordinate invisible barrier that can unwittingly exist.
Praise, praise, praise!
If you consider a time in your life when you received praise, your mind will undoubtedly cast you back to those reminiscent Primary school memories. This is because, as children, we receive recognition and thrive from it.
Why does this praise seem to stop as we become adults though?
Adults need praise too. Never forget this. Credit can be demonstrated through regular appraisals, incentives, rewards, and motivating your team to celebrate their successes. With meaningful praise, motivation, well-being, and the mood of your team will dramatically increase.
Genuine recognition rewards efforts along with accomplishments. It reinforces positive behaviours, builds self-esteem, and boosts motivation.
Encouraging employees to praise teammates is also an excellent way of promoting a positive culture throughout your company. However, it also reduces competitiveness as your team celebrates individual successes together.
The fact that you have readily chosen to read this article suggests you are well on your way to becoming an inspirational leader, if not already.
Remember, ‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’
Here at SBCA, we support leaders, like you, to be the most effective business owners they can be. To discover what this could look like for you, call the team today on 01772 204102.