Leaders who inspire have an ability to articulate a vision in a way that appeals to us and motivates us to act. They provide purpose and meaning for the task at hand. The result of inspirational leadership is that we are willing to invest more effort, we are more encouraged, we are more confident, and we are more optimistic in response. This effect on a number of people has a way of propelling the mission forward.
Why are some leaders able to inspire us to act when others can’t? Why are some organizations are able to inspire us to buy while others can’t? Simon Sinek gives an 18-minute TED Talk about how this works.
If you don’t watch the video, here’s a quick recap:
Those of us who know the “Why?” behind what we do are the ones who are able to inspire. Most of us know what we do and some of us even know how we do it, but the powerful thing is to know why. This works because the why tells us about a purpose, a cause, or a belief. That why informs us of the core reason for existence, which in turn drives behavior and action. Our emotional response to the why is what inspires trust and loyalty. So you could say that inspiration has a strong emotional component behind it.
So if that is inspiration, how do you get there?
Everyone’s path will be different, but there are three pieces that are crucial to inspiration:
You must first be able to inspire yourself before you can inspire others. If you often feel down, unmotivated, disengaged, you have to engage yourself first.
The Golden Rule is bad advice. You shouldn’t treat people how you would want to be treated; you should treat people how they want to be treated. Likewise, what inspires you may not inspire others. Appeal to others’ intrinsic motivations and values in order to inspire.
Thinking and feeling the right things won’t get you far if you cannot communicate all of that in a way that is understood. The vision that you set forth needs to be understandable, precise, powerful, and engaging.
In an HBR blog post, John Baldoni writes that an inspirational leader has a strong leadership presence, which, he tells us, is made up of knowledge, authority, humility, and hope. I don’t think you have to be anyone special or have anything special in order to inspire. I believe we all have an ability to inspire. We just each do it in our own unique way.
Have you experienced inspirational leadership?