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According to an IBM study of 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries, one of the top three qualities a leader can possess is the ability to inspire people to action. Employees who work for an inspirational leader are enthused, encouraged, energized, motivated, engaged, and appreciated. They believe that what they do matters, that they’re making a difference. It’s also an area where many leaders have of room to improve.
Motivation and inspiration are both important, but they’re also very different. Motivation often feels like someone is pushing you. Inspirational leaders help you find more of the good inside you.
Inspirational leaders come in all shapes and styles. The ability to inspire is not a gift you’re born with. It’s a skill you can learn. Inspirational leaders are made, not born. When you become more self-aware you can discover your own approach and how you are uniquely wired to inspire. You can improve those inspirational qualities you may not even know you have.
Research by the Bain Company revealed there are 33 main traits that inspirational leaders have. You’d be hard-pressed to find a leader who has all 33 traits, but these 33 were the most consistently mentioned traits when they surveyed 2,000 employees and asked them what makes for an inspiring leader. Here are some paraphrased versions of just a few of those traits: emotional expression, positive attitude, keeping your word, appreciating your team, leading with humility, expressing empathy, directing the team, and listening to and valuing those you lead.
You might look at that list and think you might only have one or two of those strengths. Don’t be discouraged. Here’s what the research also showed: All you need is one or two well-developed strengths to inspire people. So, identify your top three inspirational traits!
Here are my top three inspirational traits:
- Consistency: Over two decades, I’ve worked consistently and delivered consistently.
- Focus: I attack until it’s done, I’m not easily distracted, and I don’t give up.
- Empowerment: I believe in people, extend them trust, help them soar, and cheer them on.
These are not things I do occasionally. They are things I do consistently. That is why they inspire people.
Now, there is one quality that matters more than all other: centeredness. It’s leading from a state of assuredness. It’s good internal alignment, being guided by values, driven by purpose, and obsessed by mission. It’s not chasing a competitor, it’s living a calling. It’s not trying to prove something, it’s living from a heart of passion.
Leverage your inspirational strengths to help your team feel and believe they are a part of something bigger than any of you. Do you know how do your employees or volunteers feel? Many leaders don’t. You should.
There are three levels to how your people “feel.” You can’t get to the third level without the first two.
- Satisfaction: They have the tools and freedom to perform and are recognized and compensated fairly.
- Engagement: They’re part of a team, they have the ability to grow, they’re making a difference or doing something they believe is valuable.
- Inspiration: They’re drawing deep and lasting meaning from their work and performing with purpose and passion.
Employees who describe themselves as “inspired” are more than twice as productive as employees who call themselves “satisfied.” When they are inspired, you’ll see lower turnover, higher job satisfaction, more productivity, and increased loyalty.
When you are centered as a leader, you know clearly what you are trying to accomplish. You care about the people around you. You live the vision. You don’t need to inspire with speeches. Your very presence—who you are—inspires! You don’t have to have a title. You don’t have to be a gifted speaker. You don’t have to have a big budget or nice offices. You need a vision worth following!
Remember, you don’t have to know it all to be a great leader! Be yourself. People would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.
Here's an exercise you can do to grow as a leader—ask your team these questions:
- What are your three most inspirational qualities? This is a great team exercise. Ask those around you. Often, they’ll tell you you’re great at something and don’t know it. Or, maybe you do know you are good at it, you just didn’t understand the value in it. Identify them and build on them!
- What can you do specifically to leverage those qualities to consistently inspire your team? Here are a few ideas: Write notes. Walk around to appreciate them in person. Record and send weekly videos. Take your team members to lunch. Find a new, creative way to hear from you team.
FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES
Catch up with some of the best Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast episodes. Craig chose his five favorite episodes—head here to listen to them and get the leader guides for all five episodes.
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