Motivate and inspire. These two words are often used interchangeably, echoed perpetually in the minds of any leader trying to spearhead the charge. However, view the two as the same and you are missing a critical component in your growth as a senior executive. Why? Motivation is of the ego, while inspiration is of the soul. Knowing how to motivate can make you a phenomenal boss, while knowing how to inspire will solidify your future as a phenomenal leader.
“Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, and inspiration is when an idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.”
– Dr Wayne Dyer
Being inspirational can be a trait that appears to be intangible; you either have it or you don’t. It seems that individuals like Winston Churchill, JFK, Ronald Reagan, and Tony Robbins were most certainly born as charismatic and influential individuals. So, if being inspirational to others is something we all want, but it’s something you are and not something you get, then inspiration must be impossible to teach, right? Not quite.
Turns out, inspirational leadership can be built with thoughtful and measured practice. There’s even an incredibly easy place to start.
You. Want to be inspirational to others? You must first be inspired yourself.
Think about it; reflect upon some of the individuals in your life who have inspired you. You will see a common thread between them all – you fed off of their enthusiasm. If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect those around you to be inspired to join you on the journey?
Great leaders have a crystal-clear vision for what the future holds, and they can articulate that vision precisely and with contagious energy. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech is proof of his ability to paint a picture so clearly that it almost seems we are already living in the future state. To truly inspire, you must start from within:
- What problem does our firm solve or service does our firm provide, and what is our connection as to why that matters?
- What are we building together?
- Why is this team special? What makes us proud to be part of this unique collection of individuals?
- What are my 1-, 3-, and 5-year dreams for my team? What will life look like then for all involved?
- How does my dream connect on a personal level with each team member?
- How do each of my team members want to be remembered in terms of the impact they had and the role they played in making a difference, both internally with peers and externally with clients?
- What gifts am I giving to those I work with every day?
Highly successful people ask the right questions, and thus, they receive the answers that help them advance in life.
Change from the Inside Out
Focusing on motivation is the comfort zone of many in a leadership role. Motivation can be wildly effective as it forces us to keep up, compete, and compare ourselves to others. Motivation works as it compels us to take action, to push past limits, and do more than we thought possible. But motivation without inspiration is temporary, and it can become exhausting. Though motivation can drive results, inspiration drives the purpose connected to those results.
That connection is what keeps individuals tethered to a mission and a leader for years and decades to come. When a leader is able to reach in and inspire the hearts and minds of individuals, those individuals are changed from the inside out. When people want to take action because there is a deeply connected desire from within, that action is sustainable and infinitely more meaningful.
One of the strongest value propositions a leader can give to an employee is the ability for that individual to perpetually grow in all dimensions. The message that someone else believes in you, sees potential and growth in you, can be a powerful connector. Obvious areas of growth include professionally as well as personally, but do not overlook the importance of financial, mental, and spiritual growth as well. In nature, plants either grow or decompose; they do not stay the same. In an organization, nourishment is supplied by the broad term of training, but a more accurate term is learning. What is being done within your organization to foster learning, growth, and new perspectives each week?
Don’t be afraid to set your team free. Open the gates and let the human need for autonomy and significance flourish. People want to do well and succeed but can sometimes be suppressed by your own need for control or cumbersome processes within the organization. Inspire others by giving them a purpose they connect with, a timeline for results, and the authority to act.
Hardest Worker in the Room
When the team is out of gas, you inject more fuel. When the team doesn’t know what to do next, you lead by example. Whether acknowledged or not, employees want to see a leader who is desperately hungry for the mission to succeed and will do whatever is needed, whenever it’s needed, to get the work done.
Don’t mistake this final point; this doesn’t mean you need to be the first one in and last one out every day without exception. In fact, many times the “busiest” people are the ones who simply manage their time the poorest. Unplugging or taking time off is important, but the team should be able to clearly see your dedication to doing the hard work to achieve success. You will be thrilled to see the byproduct of that dedication when the rest of the team follows in your direction.