“A leader is one who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way”
– John C. Maxwell
Businesses all around the world have very different views about values, transparency, interaction and cooperation. In a globalised world, it becomes increasingly clear why some countries seem to have a monopoly on innovation and why others are always playing catch up, struggling to find the answer -below what seems more like a chain of command than a modern organizational structure- in the lack of capacity of a workforce that is uncommitted to success and not willing to go the extra mile to do what it takes. From there many falsehoods emerge cloaking the biggest truth that only the most unwilling minds have been able to successfully obliterate from their eyes while it’s been staring them in the face for quite some time now.
All human beings are essentially the same.
Given a few centimetres in height or width, a few pounds more or less, 50 shades of white or black and all the different shapes our eyelids seem to have all human beings are essentially the same. Did you know that all our eyeballs are the same? Well they are. The big eyes of the arabic woman at the cashier register of the middle eastern restaurant are not really bigger than the eyes of the lady at the cashier register of the chinese restaurant. The difference lies on the eyelids. That’s all. And if you look back in history you’ll find that those countries making a meagre living now days were at some point in a distant past, perhaps the wealthiest nations on the planet whilst those we tend to endow now with superior qualities due to the advancement perceived in their societies and the wealth they undoubtedly possess, were maybe 5 or 10 centuries ago, almost destitute and its peoples had to resort to piracy just like the poor Somalis do nowadays.
“I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me.” Publius Terentius Afer – 160 BCE
All throughout history leaders have empowered men and women at some point when they’ve been at their lowest inspiring them to overcome and achieve. In the current business climate things are no different. When you take a look at the most successful companies in the last century you’ll find that they had inspirational leaders. People that weren’t concerned with overnight success but with ultimate success. People who inspired those who were around them making them achieve their full potential. Leaders, not bosses.
You’re probably wondering what I mean by this, asking yourself some questions such as: “Ok, inspirational, that’s sounds cool! But what does it mean? So being a leader is not the same as being a boss, what is the difference? What does it take to be a leader? Who is a leader then? Many doubts surely, but do not worry, because I’m going to clarify them all to satisfy your curiosity.
First of all, I’m bound to answer the most basic and fundamental question of all: What is a leader? According to BussinessDictionary.com, a leader is “a person (…) that holds a dominant or superior position within its field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others”. That´s pretty clear isn’t it? Now, we are going to check the definition of boss: “is a person who exercises control over other employees in a workplace environment”. Both terms are almost the same, right? Perhaps, you are thinking that both terms are actually the same and this article is a waste of time. Not so fast, bear with me…
There is a single adjective which we’ll add to our first word that will mean a huge difference: inspirational. So combining it with “leadership”, it changes radically into this: “Inspirational Leadership is about energizing and creating a sense of direction and purpose for employees and excitement and momentum for change. It involves energizing individuals to strive towards a compelling vision of the future (…)” – taken from the National Research Council Canada´s website.
In plain words, Inspirational leaders are fellows who inspire people through their actions and words to believe in a common goal. The main aspect of a truly inspirational leader is the capacity to encourage workers to take responsibility and believe it to be the core for continued success. On the opposite, a boss will only care about establishing his/her influence and power over others. While a leader says “Let’s Go”, a boss will say: “Go”.
Here are 10 unequivocal qualities that will change an individual and help him/her to start leading and stop bossing:
We all know that managing a group is a quite difficult task, and most certainly, it is not a process which can be guided sitting like an emperor in a comfortable chair with a very high backrest in the comfort of a big office with a stunning view.
Crisis and other events always happen and these can occur at any moment in the workplace, and the capacity to handle them must be one of the strongest points of any leader. However, dealing frequently with these scenarios should be the catalyst to develop one of the most important traits of every effective leader: foresight.
“Perception is strong and sight is weak. Therefore in strategy it is important to look at distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things” Miyamoto Musashi
Foresight allows leaders to anticipate such situations and make decisions beforehand, avoiding any possible incidents, and at the same time, it allows the leader to continue leading the team preventing deviations from the path of productivity and growth.
- Appetite for winning
Inspirational leaders should have a voracious desire to surpass expectations and achieve their goals.
An enthusiastic and devoted need for learning, testing new options, and even willingness to make some mistakes, are necessary because, after all, of these aspects are going to help leaders obtain more knowledge and data by dealing and observing the group that they lead.
Also, inspirational leaders are brave enough to face and deal with complex situations making people keep the focus on several issues related to business or to remind employees to get back on track; inspirational leaders see these scenarios as challenges to activate the right measures such as, communicating with their staff, informing them about the company’s affairs and how they are reacting to problems. Authentic leaders always remember this golden rule in business: expect the unexpected.
A strong leader with these features will inspire a professional team and make them follow his or her steps towards success.
- Fulfill your promises
The most successful leaders manage to inspire people with their passion and it is their passion that fuels the drive needed by their teams to succeed. You must feel passionate about your vision if you want to instill this feeling on others. Never forget that your words should always be consistent with your actions. Upon achieving your goals you must make good on the promises you made so your team knows that you’re not just passionate but also trustworthy. Your passion will provide the fuel while your trustworthiness will provide the ship that will navigate you and your team towards the next goal.
- Be inspirational
To inspire others passion is not enough. Empathy with your team and coherence in everything you do will amplify the power of passion and turn it into inspiration. Therefore you must show genuine interest for the people that works under your command and pay attention to the smallest details because that’s where the devil is.
Here empathy fuses with coherence because if you really care about your goal and you truly believe your team can succeed they must be really dear individuals for you. It would be inconsistent with your goals if you’re not truly interested on the welfare of your team. Remember leaders look at the big picture and motivated individuals are priceless so be sure to never forget that. Never speak in anger and let the driving force of passion turn against you. Keep your eye on the ball. In the end you must learn that being a leader carries a price. Yours is the ultimate glory when the battle is won but if defeat shows its ugly face then it will be your fault. It is your job to motivate your team and make sure they succeed.
- Persistence is the key
The ability to not give up and return after being defeated is essential for any leader to achieve any kind of success in life, because, let’s face it, there will be many failures and mistakes along the way, and it is how the leader is going to deal with these problems and failures that will determine the result of any effort taken.
Consequently, persistence is a quality that a genuinely inspirational leader must have, because (and this is not a secret), nobody will follow a wimp. If a leader lacks persistence, then his or her employees will know that at the first sign of trouble hesitation will follow and after the first sign of failure forfeiting will be certain so they won’t commit 100% like they need to.
Persistence is the key to not only focus and to keep advancing, but to keep an entire work team moving forward against their own fears and doubts.
If defeat comes you must take it as a signal that your plans need readjusting. Adapt and make your team adapt with you. Learn the lessons and take action without wasting time idling.
Inspirational leaders need to have the courage to hold the line, to keep the work team on the right direction and lead the way maintaining people’s trust on a high level.
- Listening is an Art
Some confused people tend to consider hearing and listening as the same thing. And let me tell you, they are all wrong!
Hearing is not the same as listening. Genuine leaders really listen to what is said to them (positive or negative messages) and answer in an appropriate way.Their egos don’t get in the way.
Every leader should have an open door policy, listen to the team’s feedback and encourage them to contribute in order to reach the common goal. This will infuse the sharing of ideas into the company’s environment where everyone can participate and their opinions and suggestions are important. Passion must never prevent leaders from listening
- The power of communication
When a leader speaks and he’s not understood eventually the machinery will stop. Some leaders have the wrong idea that delivering flash memos or organizing quick meetings is effective, but let me tell you, this practice of cutting corners around communication will only create confusion that will result in time wasting.
Truly inspired leaders know how to use the correct channels of communication and take the right amount of time with each one in order to ensure that everyone on the team receives and understands the information. They speak clearly and to the point in a way that makes misinterpretation unlikely.
Communication is a fundamental element of how leaders achieve their goals every day. To become a great leader is to become a great communicator.
It is a fact that great communicators inspire people. They create a bond with their followers that can be real, emotional, and personal. Great communicators build this link through knowing and understanding people’s needs.
“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” – Joseph Priestley.
- Authenticity is your best friend
To be in the mind of thousands or even millions is, without a doubt, the clearest sign of being authentic. And yes, as you noticed, it is one of the most important leadership traits of every person that wants to inspire others.
Being authentic is not being rude,,. To be authentic is quite possible by just showing sincerity, and being consistent in your words and actions.
Also, accepting diversity in all forms, having awareness about people’s natures, and knowing how to delegate roles and tasks, are the most typical but not so easy to achieve, principles of authenticity among inspirational leaders. However, authenticity necessarily requires that you feel strongly about every action you perform without succumbing to any weakness in your character and it requires that you love yourself dearly with your virtues and your defects knowing that everything you need to be better lies within yourself. If you’re sincere and consistent people will respond to your authenticity and become inspired by it.
- Always be curious
Inspirational leaders are always curious and willing to learn from every situation, experience or person. Their curious nature allows them to look constantly for new ideas, perspectives, and options. Thanks to their curiosity they understand innovation and new trends that come from many places. They are perfectly aware of the importance of keeping an open mind with the purpose of getting new knowledge or meeting people who might give fresh contributions that can turn into a great advantage.
Inspirational leaders should never restrain their curiosity, because after all, “We keep forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths” – Walt Disney.
Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence and it is never lacking on inspirational leaders. A high level of self-awareness allows inspirational leaders to have a clear, realistic, and objective perspective about their own strengths and weaknesses so they can devise effective strategies to emphasize their strengths and compensate their weaknesses.
Self-awareness allows a balance between being a visionary with realistic goals and a reckless gambler. This quality allows leaders to recognize that their actions will, inevitably, affect or influence others in a positive or negative way. In plain words, “It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself” – Latin Proverb.
To sum up
So, to get started becoming an inspirational leader, just reboot, and begin once again taking one small step, start searching and gathering truthful information, for instance, from inspirational books or pages, from people with some experience with whom you can feel somehow identified, and then, start infusing yourself with the right type of ideas, energy and mentality. Take a step everyday towards something truly transcendent in your life.
Perhaps, you already have some of these traits mentioned before, or maybe you do not yet have any of them. But in any case, you have to be patient and sincerely try to use them in your daily life, no matter if you have failed in the first attempt, keep trying. Never lose the enthusiasm; grow up, evolve, surpass yourself, because after all, apart from these qualities, the only person who can decide if you can evolve to something that surpasses your expectations and then guide others to achieve bigger things, is you.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising everytime we fall” – Nelson Mandela.