How to be an Inspirational Leader?

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One of the expectations as leaders that we have of ourselves is to be inspirational. Everyone talks about how it is important for leaders to be inspirational, to lead their teams to places that they may or may not want to go, to achieve a lot more than they would have achieved if it were not for the leadership.

I strongly believe that we should not start with the goal of becoming an inspirational leader , as it is a self-centred perspective. However, I have been thinking about this topic for some time and I believe that there are a few things that we can learn and do more of that does result in others seeing us as more inspirational leaders.

Be Inspired:

I have heard Matt Church say this many a times – in order for us to be inspirational, we need to be inspired ourselves. The way we can be more inspired is by keeping the company of other inspired people. Inspiration, like energy, is contagious. Also, one way that we can become truly inspired is by having a clear purpose and intention behind all our actions.

Research by has shown that we can be both inspired by something (or someone) or be inspired to do something (or be something). To be inspired (either by or to do), we need to live in the present moment. We can’t be thinking about the past or the future and be inspired at the same time. So, as leaders who want to be inspired, we need to spend more and more time in our present moment and look up to someone (or something) that is bigger than us.

Help people achieve their aspirations:

When I sit back and think of every moment when I was inspired by someone (or someone was being inspirational), I can see that they were not trying to be inspirational. They were just trying to be helpful. I felt seen, heard and understood by them.

I felt that they knew what my aspirations were and were working with me to help me achieve them (faster, cheaper, better). They did not have any other intentions. They just wanted to see me succeed and achieve what I already wanted to achieve and play a small part in the success by using their skills, networks and influence.

Believe in potential before it manifests itself:

Another thing that those who are considered to be inspirational do is to spot potential in us and believe in it even before we see or believe in that potential within us. When we think of it, each and every one of us has the potential for greatness in something (it is different for each one of us but each one of us do have the potential for greatness within us).

So, it is just a matter of looking for it and as they say, we usually find what we go looking for. Once they find the spark within us that has the potential for greatness, they believe in us and that potential. And when we have people believing in our potential for greatness before we ourselves believe in it, we tend to see them as inspirational. They don’t usually stop there. They would encourage and help us in manifesting that potential, in whatever way they can.

Remove what limits people:

A big reason why a lot of us never manifest our true potential is because, we tend to be our biggest critics and the tendency to self-sabotage by encouraging limiting beliefs within us is usually strong in most of us. We see people who help us overcome these limiting beliefs as inspirational. So, all we need to do is spot our limiting belief’s in the people we lead and find a way to help them change these belief’s. It is simple but not easy.

Something Bigger than all of us:

Another thing that is common among people whom we consider to be inspirational is their ability to make us feel part of something bigger than us all (including them). They do this by creating a vision that is both challenging and inspiring. They do this by creating a sense of togetherness or camaraderie. This sense of all of us being part of something bigger than the individual part, eggs us all to do better, be better and not let the team down.

When we do this, we tend to bring our full selves to work and keep the company of people who are inspired, which leads to us being inspired as well.

In conclusion:

All the things that I spoke about in the post above are simple things when we think of them. However, when we want to implement them in our behaviour, they are difficult to put into action. The primary shift that is needed within us is to move away from thinking about “ME” to thinking about “YOU” and then shift to “US”. This requires us to be present, empathetic and genuinely wanting to help.

The intention to help needs to shine through – to help, not for us to become an inspirational leader, but because it is the right thing to do for them. The “Inspirational Leader” thing is a by-product if we do everything else right.

Here are a few more perspectives on this topic from some interesting people. You might find some of the things that they speak about is similar to my own thinking as well. Everyone of them has a framework, you can pick whichever framework or thought resonates for you.

Here is Prof. Adam Galinsky talking about his model or framework for how to be an inspiring leader.

Here is Srikumar Rao, founder of The Rao Institute talking about why becoming an inspiring leader is a wrong goal to start with and how it is a by-product of things that we do.

Here is Simon Sinek talking with one of my favourite people on YouTube verse, Marie Forleo, about leadership and how to inspire excellence from ourselves and from those around us.

Here is a short video about what modern research teaches us about getting inspired.

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