An inspirational leader lifts up those around him, both enhancing the organization and the individual. You can lead without inspiring, but that’s really just making decisions, and moving pieces on the chess board. An inspirational leader, on the other hand, uses their position of authority to develop others, replicating himself in the process. The latter end result is a team that is not just capable of executing on a leader’s directives, but one that becomes more than it was to begin with.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Inspiring through connection. A 2016 Deloitte survey of younger adults revealed that 63% do not believe their leadership skills are being developed. Often these workers leave the organization faster when they find their desire for a lifestyle of learning is not being met. In other words, to retain some high-functioning employees, it’s not only prudent, but necessary to develop healthy mentoring relationships with them.
You can inspire when you take time to meet with employees outside of regular work functions for times of personal development. A lunch where you openly discuss decisions and how they are made. An early morning study group where you invite 4-5 employees to join you to discuss a relevant leadership book or topic. Or inviting key employees with you on a business trip, or company presentation, to observe and learn. The reality is that many workers want to develop themselves into future leaders, but have no idea where to start or how to get there. Let their experience with you be more than just following orders. Let them see where the orders come from, and how they can build the thinking and management skills necessary when their turn comes to sit at the leadership table.
Inspiring through decision. The types of decisions you make and how you make can influence and inspire your peers and reports. This applies to business direction, personnel matters and client choices. Leaders often hold decisions closely for competitive reasons, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. However, whenever possible, it is a bold developmental choice to share your thinking with your coworkers and employees. Learning why you made a certain decision, the aspects that were included and the balance you must strike, can help others learn how to make better choices themselves. And letting select people behind-the-scenes in your decision making can inspire them to think more deliberately and carefully through their own decisions.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Sharing your decision-making process is not the same as giving other a voice, or level of determination, in your decision. Rather, it may be an opportunity for you to remind others that you often seek their best interest and the organizational best interest as you decide important matters that affect them. You may find greater confidence from others in trusting and implementing decisions for which they have a greater degree of understanding.
Inspiring through example. How you live is as much an influence to others as how you lead—in fact they are interrelated and inseparable. A man who is successful in business but poor in relationships, family and charity ultimately will not be looked up to by anyone—he’s in it for himself. Your example, however, can inspire others as you keep success in context. Having integrity in your work, authenticity in your relationships and placing a priority on your family inspires others to grow themselves in all areas of life.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
False promises, lies, spreading rumors, cheating for financial or positional advantage, misrepresentation—these are all too common behaviors in leadership circles. A recent Gallup survey revealed that only 45% of employees rated the moral values of their company leader as “excellent” and only 22% said that their company leader had a clear direction for their organization. Your personal integrity, then, is among the greatest inspirational leadership tools you have. Working honestly, keeping your word, avoiding office politics, crediting others for the effort, showing genuine appreciation—these are the foundation of leading by example.
The inspiration mandate. In today’s cultural climate, it is difficult to lead without being an inspiration to those you are responsible for. A single employee is entirely capable of threatening a century-old brand’s reputation with a single social media post. What you said, or did, decades ago, long before you were in leadership, is now possible fodder for your organization’s enemies and the media. The level of transparency expected of management is an order of magnitude higher today than a decade ago. As a leader, you must model and enable workers to make wise decisions on their own. Command-and-control leadership is now a footnote for the history books. You can, and must, inspire those around you to know and to do the next right thing.