Inspired or Expired?
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." ~ Barack Obama
When I first heard this, I realized the first task of leadership is to get inspired ourselves. Unless we have that hunger that must be fed and a compelling purpose to move forward, how in the world do we inspire others? It is impossible to lead if we don't feel inspired. Okay, not impossible, because I can certainly name a few leaders who do lead that are not inspirational, but I sure don't want to follow them.
Great leadership is passionate. There is a 'fire in the belly'. There is a sense of calling and a sense of purpose. There is a passion that just won't let go and comes through in all dealings with people. This passion is what causes others to say, "Absolutely, I will follow. How can I not?"
Many years ago when I was in my first positional leadership role in business, my then mentor told me to observe leaders around me with a careful and objective eye. He told me to watch their impact and what worked for them. Watch how they wake up people. Watch how they inspire people. When I find a leader like that, my mentor told me to ask them, "What is it that you do that makes others want to follow you?" Everyone I ever asked said that they hold a vision that inspires them. They have a clear mission. They have values that they live by. Vision. Mission. Passion. Action. This serves to inspire others. They lead with intention.
"I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people." - Mohandas Gandhi
Bob Tschannen-Moran wrote an article about how inspiration matters. He said, "Gandhi, Kennedy, King, Mandela, Reagan, and Obama -- among many others -- have all understood and successfully navigated this dynamic. Instead of positional authority, they have tugged at the hearts and minds of their followers through inspirational authority. They had a vision that was larger than themselves and they shared that vision in ways that resonated deeply with many people."
My then mentor also told me to watch those leaders who put people to sleep. Those who actually expire others. He said you can also learn what not to do by observing these types of leaders.
So, how do we inspire when we are feeling expired?
Here's some advice from leaders I have asked this question to:
• Remind yourself what your vision is. Get quiet. Vision the vision. How does it taste, smell, feel, what does it look like? How does your body feel when you see yourself accomplishing this? Hold onto this feeling.
• Anchor yourself in your values. Write them down. Write down the meaning of these values. Keep them somewhere you have easy access to. Read them frequently.
• Find allies. Find someone who can be a trusted advisor to you. Someone to whom you can speak freely to. Have them remind you of the type of leader you are, especially when you don't feel like much of a leader.
• Retreat. When you are feeling like the expiration date is about to expire on your leadership take time off. Go away. Be in nature. Turn off. Including all your communication gear. Be by yourself.
The more inspired you are, the more inspired your leading others will be. Inspire with authority.
"The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being." Lee Iacocca