Leadership skills begin with an inspiring sense of vision. Pursuing clear-sighted objectives and taking people with you along the way are qualities that separate great leaders from average managers. When people want to follow you, you’re halfway towards meeting your targets. How to inspire the ‘want’ is the key to leadership, crack that and greatness is yours on a plate.
Barack and Michelle Obama both have something about them – a sense of purpose you can believe in. Greta Thunberg, Marcus Rashford, David Attenborough, Anthony Fauci and Nancy Pelosi all have something similar. They are single-minded about implementing change for the common good, sometimes in the face of ridicule. It’s this that brings a footballer like Rashford international recognition as a campaigner on child food poverty.
Rashford didn’t launch his campaign for the sake of cheap publicity, or because it was an item on an agenda or agreed by a committee. Personal belief is a powerful driving force. When applied to some of the problems we face, it can be inspirational. This is vision, it’s infectious – which is why it reaches beyond borders.
Inspirational vision relies on authenticity. Without it, leaders struggle with consistency. Politicians for example may fall back on knee-jerk responses and populist quick fixes, skipping the tough decisions that changing times demand. Which isn’t particularly inspirational.
Circumstances have been changing fast in recent months, leaders in business have had their work cut out. Belief, clarity and passion can help to manage change, tame it and make the most of it. Inspirational skills such as these are not within the exclusive gift of a handful of individuals, they are components of a process that can be learned. Motivating those around you is a skill open to anyone.
Motivation rather than compliance
When people want to follow you, they’re motivated – rather than simply compliant. Good leadership helps the team find the same energy and passion that they see in their leader. This is why vision is infectious. As you lead the way through change, your belief in the direction you’re taking will inspire confidence among the people around you. This is the triumph of Barack Obama, Greta Thunberg and the rest. The authenticity that underpins their message instils confidence and wins them support.
If you’re not championing a food poverty campaign or tackling the climate emergency, how do you actually be ‘inspirational’? Perhaps start by deciding the direction you need to take. Set clear, decisive, hard-headed targets, then sell your argument. Clear communication is essential in winning hearts and minds, you’re looking for more than compliance, you’re aiming to motivate people.
Consequently, alongside hard-headed decisions a simultaneous softer sense of empathy helps to develop collaborative behaviour. Explaining the purpose and value of your goals with impact and presence will help to unite the team and build a shared sense of purpose. The ‘shared’ part is the important bit. Inspiration isn’t aloof, it’s inclusive.
Becoming an inspirational leader
The Harvard Business Review looked at data on 50,000 leaders who had been assessed by half a million colleagues. The HBR found that of the 16 competencies they most frequently measure, the one “that clearly stands out” is inspiring leadership.
Our Learnflix eLearning course on becoming an Inspirational Leader offers five key steps that will help you get to where you want to be:
1) Authenticity and Self-Motivation Learn how to make an impact by understanding what drives and motivates people.
2) Rapport and Recognition Learn how to connect genuinely with others and to recognise what drives those around us.
3) Purpose and Learning Discover how to inspire by stirring up a sense of purpose and encouraging it in others.
4) Feedback and Pressure Find out how to use the ‘desire to learn’ as a motivational tool, value ‘recognition as reward’, and learn how to stay motivated, even under pressure.
5) Inspiring Behaviour and Practice Learn and practise the behaviours that inspire others.
This is a broad set of qualities and they don’t always come easy. But in perfecting your leadership skills, they’re a good place to start. Together, they will help you develop the inspiration that you and your team depend on, especially in times of change such as many of us are encountering at the moment.