What does it mean to be an inspirational leader? How does someone become one? Is it in-born (as some people would have you believe)? I’ve observed many a leader over the years and have come to believe that, yes, some people are more natural leaders than others. If nothing else, they are more extroverted and willing to be bold and guiding. But that doesn’t mean that others can’t become leaders who inspire people. In my opinion there are some traits r characteristics that define someone as a leader. And some of that is just more natural for some people. But part of that is behavioral. Some of their leadership qualities are how they do things; not just what they are born with.
How about a look at some of those traits of inspiring leaders – and how you can more strongly build your leadership ability?
Some people say “I am just not one of those visionary people.” I’m sorry. I think that’s a cop-out. Having (and sharing) a clear, long-term vision is absolutely critical for an inspirational leader. A leader will paint a picture of not just the organization’s future, but also the marketplace. Others should almost feel what the future looks like.
What YOU can do. Consider how you divide your time. How much of your time is spent looking backwards vs. looking to the future? As a leader more of your time should be spent looking ahead and planning instead of looking backwards. For example, spend more of your time brainstorming new ideas and thinking about market trends vs. looking at past financial results. Now that’s not to say that reviewing results isn’t important. It is. It’s a fundamental part of management. But our goal here should be to grow beyond being a “manager” into being more of a “leader”. And as a wise person once said “You can’t see where you’re going, if you’re always looking backward.”
Know the Path
A really solid leader understands the path they intend to lead the organization through to achieve their vision. It’s one thing to know the destination; it’s another to have clarity about how you will get there.
What YOU can do. A way you can strengthen your capability in this area is to invest time in developing a real plan of attack. Know where your organization stands right now – and where you plan to be. Break down the steps it will take to get there.
Be Positive and Confident
Inspirational leaders seem to exude a level of confidence about themselves and about their organizations. They know where they want the organization to go and how they plan to get there. They are almost single-minded about that. And they just know that their organization can achieve great things. This confidence allows them to take action and to develop and share bold goals (which I’ll touch on in a minute).
What YOU can do. What does that mean for you? In my opinion confidence usually derives from knowledge. It’s like public speaking. The more you know, the more you are comfortable with your subject, the more at-ease and confident you are. It works the same way in the business setting. The more clear the vision, the more clarity you have about the path ahead, the better you know your organization, your customers, and the marketplace, the more confidence you can have moving forward with confidence. And demonstrate a positive outlook to your team. Not to say that difficult challenges won’t get in your way. But an inspirational leader just sees those as bumps on the way to achieving success.
Set Bold Goals
People are simply not inspired by small, modest goals. They need something bigger to shoot for. Something grand to be a part of. And as a leader it’s your job to set those goals. Of course, the organization’s vision is the big, long-range goal. But there can be big shorter-term goals as well. A team need something big to shoot for. An inspirational leader provides the target.
What YOU can do. You should revisit your goals – for both yourself as a person, as a professional, and as a leader. Are you setting goals? Are some of those goals “out there” – big and bold? Do you celebrate goals achieved? Are you challenging your team to achieve great things – things that seem out of reach?
Often we are reticent to set goals that might be difficult to achieve. But more often than not setting a bold target will get your team’s attention and get them to creatively and aggressively tackle what it takes to achieve it.
Be Authentic and Personable
Inspirational leaders inspire trust both within and outside their organizations. If your people don’t believe that you believe they will not step up and give their best. If they feel that you are not being truthful or aren’t sharing information, they will not be on-board. They will want to help reach those big goals; but not if they sense you don’t really believe they are achievable or that you have a different agenda. An inspirational leader is open, honest, and approachable.
What YOU can do. Take a personal interest in your team. Always remember that the organization is still made up of people…you know, humans. And humans like to be treated with respect. Look for ways to foster a closer relationship with your staff. As your organization gets larger that gets a little harder. But you can walk around and talk with people. You can set up a weekly lunch with staff members. You can hold open sessions where staff can ask questions and really talk with you.
Be an Open, Clear Communicator
One trait that is very common to great leaders is their ability to communicate. They get their point across/share their ideas and their vision clearly. It’s critical that key ideas, vision, strategy, direction, etc. is clearly understood by everyone. It’s one thing to have a great vision, strategy, and plan; it’s another for people to hear it and understand it. Great leaders are not only future-oriented, but they know how to share that vision clearly.
What YOU can do. Work on your communication skills. Find your weakest points (and often you have to ask others to give you honest feedback about that) and work on improving them. Become a better, more concise writer. Work on your public speaking skills.
In addition, give all your communications more careful thought. Before you craft a communication define its main point. Once you have developed it ask yourself if the main idea is clearly stated. Step back from your communications and maker sure they are clear.
Be a Team Builder
As I mentioned above, a team is a team of people. An inspirational leader treats them that way. Be honest, authentic, personable, and open with those people. Great leaders proactively develop a culture that invites others to be that way also. They appreciate the fact that (although unseen) an organization’s culture is a real thing that can be nurtured and developed in a positive way. It can also be neglected and allowed to develop in a negative way.
Another facet of this is that your culture will help define whether you attract or repel really good talent. Great people want to be part of a great organization. And while that means an organization that has a vision, a plan, and bold goals to achieve; it also means one that is a good fit for them personally. The right culture will attract and keep the right talented individuals.
What YOU can do. Define what you want the organization’s culture to be like. Embrace the idea that it can be created. Then do an honest assessment of your organization’s culture. Is it what you would like it to be? Define areas that can be improved.
Encourage Open Learning
An inspirational leader knows that things can always be improved. They do not have the arrogance to believe that they know everything or that their organization is perfect. They know that constant learning and improvement is essential. And they make that a part of the organization’s core. They bring together several of the elements I’ve already talked about – vision, direction, culture. Just as a leader develops an open line of communication for themselves, they also encourage that for their organization. They know that there is always more to learn about making better products and services, knowing customers better, more that their staff wants to achieve as professionals. And they embed that sense of learning in their organization as well.
What YOU can do. Build a sense of openness and learning into your organization. Stress continuing education about the business and its customers. Make sure that your team understands each employee’s goals for themselves and welcomes learning among them as well. Help them acquire the tools they need to get there. Can they take courses? Can they attend industry training or seminars? Can they teach each other? Show them that you want to help them grow and you will build a better, more engaged workforce.
So, do you recognize yourself in these descriptions? Are you the inspirational leader you’d like you be? Most of us aren’t. But I truly believe that there are ways you can build or strengthen some of these characteristics. Even if you’re not there yet, I firmly believe you can develop into a more inspirational leader for your organization. Take action now.
Think you might need some help becoming the inspirational leader you've always wanted to be? Give me a call. I offer business coaching services that can help - and I'd welcome the opportunity to chat with you about it! You can call me at (713) 907-8429 or use our CONTACT US page. I’d be happy to chat with you and explore whether I can help. No pressure. Just an informal discussion to explore the idea a little.
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