Leadership isn’t changing the mindset of individuals or groups. That leadership thing is about cultivating an environment that brings out the best in others. It demands that you inspire the individuals and the group to have a better tomorrow than they did today.
Inspire is defined as:
- Fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially something creative
- Breath in (air): inhale
First and foremost you have to be passionate about your commitment to your team. This means making sure they have the right tools for the right job. It means you have aligned the right tasks to the right people. It means having their back and protecting them.
The mission must be bold, specific and communicated consistently. There cannot be exceptions, you cannot let things slide. Now more than ever employees want to know that their work matters and that it goes way beyond a paycheck. There have to be connections between what they are doing and the overall picture.To be a leader requires you be a damn good salesperson. Simon Sinek gave a TED talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action where he suggests that people don’t buy what you [sell] do, they buy why you do it. With your employees you have to clearly outline why they are being asked to do something not just the how. Being able to clearly articulate the why in a manner that provides meaning and value helps them to understand the benefits and inspires them to do it better.
It is said that storytelling will be the top business skill over the next 5 years. The most inspiring communicators are storytellers. Weave a story into your communications, no matter the vehicle, to help you to inspire action. Having a personal story to accompany your message and compelling facts and figures gives your voice to your presentation and makes it come alive and inspire action.I’ve written so many articles that suggest you solicit feedback frequently and I will do so again here. You have to ask for honest feedback from your employees and those they work with horizontally and vertically. You have to go wide a deep to truly get an accurate picture of how you and your team are perceived. When you first start asking, understand that it will more than likely be fluffy. You have to be skilled at identifying when someone is dancing around an issue or when they are showing signs of fear to be honest. Respect that fear and put them at ease to be honest. It is the only way you can improve. You have to get your hopefulness to be contagious. If you aren’t spreading your hope around then you are spreading your pessimism. Stand bravely in the face of gloom and despair. See the challenges as bright, positive and full of hope. Giving your employees the gift of optimism helps them choose change over their security blankets and adventure over their safe zones. When I first started driving I would go to my destination and stay there. Then this wonderful GPS device came out. Having the GPS allowed me to adventure away from my destination and explore new cities and states. Since I am a man and seldom will ask for directions, GPS made it so I no longer worried about getting lost. How can you possibly do that leadership thing without an abundance of praise and encouragement? Employees flourish with the bounty of praise gifted by a leader, especially when they are one to two levels above an employee. An unhealthy dose of criticism will cause them to wilt away and eventually kill their spirit. You have to maintain a bank of deposits (praise) so that when you make withdrawals (criticism) they aren’t feeling beat down and defeated. Praise will encourage your employees to be their best selves. It will help them want to raise the bar far higher than criticism will.
Doing that leadership thing is such an important job. Proceed and do it well by inspiring those you lead to be their best selves, see hope and light in the darkness of despair and motivating them to pursue their dreams and interests and you are sure to be one of the leaders they never forget having worked with.
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