Six Secrets of Inspirational Leadership
The real test of leadership isn’t what you do
it’s what you inspire others to do.
Great leaders inspire others to contribute greatly. The shift from individual contributor to inspiring others may be your greatest leadership challenge. They – not you – become central.
Six Secrets of Inspirational Leadership
#1. Pushing people isn’t inspiration. Ever feel like you’re pushing people to do what you want. It’s unsatisfying, frustrating, and draining. Think pushing ropes. If you feel like you’re pushing ropes you aren’t leading you’re manipulating, coercing, or pressuring.
#2. Inspired people pull you, you don’t push them. The test of inspiration is igniting passion in others. Once you inspire someone, they frequently go further than you expect. They challenge you to reach beyond your initial expectations. They press you, you don’t press them.
#3. Shared values are foundational to inspiring. Don’t ask people to align with your values, align with theirs. When you determine what makes someone tick you’ve found the secret to inspiring them.
#4. Tell the truth about challenges, optimistically. The bigger the challenge the more valuable their contribution becomes. Minimizing devalues.
#5. Asking inspires – telling deflates. Telling makes people feel like cogs. Asking makes them participants. Participation fuels passion. Ask things like:
- Is this who we want to be?
- Why is this important?
- How can we move toward our goal or vision?
- What do you bring to the cause?
- How can I help?
- What’s next?
#6. The map they draw is better than the map you give them. You’re pushing ropes when you come down from on high and say this is where we’re going and how we’re getting there. You lose power when you tell and gain it when you ask.
Even more tips: “Seven Proven Ways to Inspire Others”
How can leaders ignite passion in others?
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That is an excellent analogy, Dan, pushing ropes.
And you are correct, asking inspires and telling deflates. But we must remember to ask our questions with an open mind and heart. Too many leaders ask question and “endure” the answer only to tell you what they want. And yes this deflates others, demoralizes them, and marks you as untrustworthy of future sharing.
Good post, as always.
Thanks for the good word and for consistently joining the conversation.
I know what you mean… “endure the answer” … the ask isn’t real and does more to deflate than inflate.
Have a great day,
I wholeheartedly agree with this one. When leaders ask for input, but follow through with their own agenda, all respect is lost. When this becomes the pattern for a leader, the team grows shell shocked of any question they pose. The organization then becomes stale and indifferent. The potential for growth dies out, because everyone on board stops THINKING of ideas. Why? Because their ideas aren’t valued.
Another expression is “Telling, not selling”. I like the feeling descriptors you use in yours: inspiring vs deflating.
I am presenting a short employee engagement workshop today, so this is very timely. I think this expression will be the closing take away.
Thank you for another great post.
Thanks for stopping in and best wishes for your presentation.
Excellent post today, Dan. All great truths to live by. I’m with Martina – “pushing ropes” is an awesome analogy!
I’m always delighted to find you here or in my twitter stream. Thanks for all you do.
You have my best,
I like the idea that asking inspires….it makes me rethink how I will approach people in the future about what I need done. Thanks for sharing!
Love your transparency.
I like #5 on the questions list, “How can I help?” I think asking that question gives people permission to chart their own course because they know you believe in them enough to take a secondary role.
I’m with you. The question comes from my friend and former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, Doug Conant.
And you may have to ask how you can help more than once…
Inspiration seems very similar to encouragement – and for me/many this is easy… when someone already has motivation – I simply empower & release them to do greater than we imagined. I struggle more with those who are not motivated – no drive/desire/purpose… not always sure what to do there…
My way of saying this is that people always do what they want to do.
Force produces minimum effort, not engagement. I so appreciate your suggestion #3 to align with their values. Part of doing that successfully of course means adding values-based folks to the team, but once you have them, turn them loose!
#2 is a great indicator of where you are with your team – are you pushing or are they pulling? Great diagnostic for leadership effectiveness!
Thanks as always,
Have to give you a couple of ka-chings Dan! You crafted some great visual analogies.
#5 & 6 are very much intertwined, the more you ask, the more others will draw their own map… and who knows their map might be the best option for all!
While it is still just semantics, do you find the push/pull approach less desirable than a ‘with/within approach’?
Push definitely has its limits, however pull may imply that leader knows best.
Yes people need encouragement, to be inspired, however, ultimately, what works better; pushed, pulled, driven with, or from within?
Awesome! Core principles in a short, easy to digest post. Nicely done!
Perfect, will be sure to share…thanks
I’m a regular reader of your stuff and am always inspired by your concise messages. So thanks, and keep doing what you do!
I usually apply these readings to my interactions with grownups in a professional capacity, but when I read this one today, I couldn’t help but think about my role as a leader of my family, especially to my children. I’m going to apply these principles to my parenting and see what happens!
An excellent post on effective leadership.I was not aware that asking inspires and telling deflates. When we ask, we provide autonomy to others to express their feelings. When we tell others, we express our feelings. I think, effective leaders need both depending upon the situation and context. We provide environment when we talk about our feelings and hence try to make others understand. When we ask others, we know their feelings, focus and passion. So,leaders need to create an environment where others feel more confident to express their feelings and thinking. I think,passion is about connecting people with their purpose and priority. Leaders encourage, acknowledge and create trust in others to do their best. They make others to believe that they can do better than they think, they can.
I love your analogy of ” pushing ropes”. My experience has been the challenge of creating an ” ownership” attitude.Once this is achieved, the doors to inspiration opens in surprising ways.
Adopting a coaching approach in terms of asking vis a vis directing can surely be an effective means. I have found however that it works more with senior personnel rather than junior staff.
I have to join in the “Me too” revolution, however the analogy of “Pushing Ropes” is awesome. Too many managers and people of (Autohrity) do exactly this. You have a post here that is “RRRight On” Thanks
Hate to be so repetitive but “pushing ropes” is GENIUS. In two little words you speka volumes. I am definitely both sharing this post with friends but also keeping it close by as a daily reminder. Thanks for all you do Dan and for all the readers who so actively comment.
Nice thoughts!, like in coaching
Having worked for many companies I know that inspiration is directly connected to motivation and the best way to motivate employees is to show them that their work is meaningful and that it has some tangible results. There’s nothing that puts people off more than a dull and steady job. You would be surprised but unhappiness in the workplace where progress means nothing is often connected to health problems. According to various surveys, people with low-paying jobs and with few possibilities to make progress have a higher risk of heart disease than those who feel satisfied in their careers. I just recently read that only a small number of employees are happy with their working environment which results in increasing importance being placed on different wellness programs and even a workplace exercise regimen to increase productivity and develop a more positive attitude.
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