As a leadership coach, I get to work with leaders every day. Many of the leaders who I work with are at the top of the game, managing teams, getting results and making a difference in this world.
Being a leader is not an easy job at the best of times. Since the impact of COVID-19, the importance of inspirational leadership has never been greater.
Across the globe, both in politics and in business, we’ve seen some leaders rise to the occasion, making clear, swift, and holistic decisions. Conversely, we’ve seen some leaders drop the ball, indecisive and make questionable decisions that have had an adverse impact on people’s lives.
There is also a hidden cost to poor leadership. DDI, a leading researcher in the corporate world, has created a Cost of Poor Leadership Calculator. According to their calculations, one poor Leader costs a company more than $126,000 over the course of a year due to low productivity, turnover, and staff dissension. (Jul 13, 2017).
Whenever I’m working with a leader, they will inevitably ask me, “How can I be an inspiring leader? I know I’m a good leader, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am if I wasn’t. But I don’t just want to be good and get results for the company. I want to be inspiring. I want to make a difference”.
They all want to know what the difference is between a good leader and an inspiring leader, and more importantly, how they go beyond good and become inspiring.
So, with that in mind, here are four key things I see that inspiring leaders do differently.
1. Inspirational leaders build strong relationships with their people.
Inspirational leaders engage with their people on a personal level. They know about their lives outside of work, and they understand their strengths and weaknesses professionally. Most importantly, inspirational leaders believe in their people.
Inspiring leaders don’t just get results for the company, they also foster the growth and development of their employees. They invest their time, attention, and resources in helping their people achieve their potential.
When leaders develop successful relationships with their team, they inspire people to become more than they imagined and to achieve more than they ever thought possible. An inspiring leader wants to see their staff achieve their goals, looking beyond the current project to the future for each of their team members.
Working for inspirational leaders goes beyond just doing day-to-day tasks. The leader takes an active interest in their career aspirations, goals, strengths and weaknesses, and takes an active interest in who they are beyond their role at the company.
Inspiring leaders prioritise and encourage self-development so their people can progress in their careers. By forging these strong relationships, an inspirational leader becomes invested in each and every team member and empowers them to be the best version of themselves.
Tip: Focus on developing your emotional intelligence. Your ability to develop relationships with your team will allow you to form strong bonds that foster a productive work culture. This will help you become a leader who inspires others.
2. Inspirational leaders make the people around them better.
Inspirational leaders make the people around them want to be better. They motivate them to set and achieve greater goals. They’re positive, optimistic and build trust with their people. Inspirational leaders help their team members see the big picture beyond the work, creating powerful relationships that improve productivity.
Inspirational leaders lead by example, handling difficult situations in a mature and authentic way. They also recognise and celebrate great work. They don’t see themselves as being above anyone, and will admit their faults and flaws along the way. Inspirational leaders lead in a way that serves the company, the team, and the customers, putting their ego aside in the name of success.
Inspirational leaders also adopt an open door policy, making it clear to team members that they are approachable. An inspirational leader understands that their team wants their help and input, rather than feeling they’ll be criticised or let down. They work collaboratively and are open to the ideas and opinions of others. They identify and leverage the strengths of each team member to guide projects and tasks to a successful outcome.
3. Inspirational leaders empower their team.
We hire people because they can do a job, but inspirational leaders go further than this, encouraging and supporting their team to grow, even if this growth takes them beyond the company and into new roles. An inspirational leader isn’t looking to hold their team members back.
Inspirational leaders offer generous, constructive feedback. The goal isn’t just to highlight the good things, but to really offer constructive feedback that leads to progress and development. They give their time and energy to help their team see where they can improve, and offer ongoing support for those who wish to make improvements.
Inspirational leaders don’t see themselves as just a boss or manager, but as a mentor. They actively want their team to succeed and they celebrate all the small wins along the way. This extends beyond the job at hand, into developing a meaningful and successful career. They help them see their potential, and empower them to use their potential to achieve great results.
Tip: Have honest conversations with your team members. Get to know them and their goals and let me know that you want to help them achieve their goals, even if it means eventually leaving your company. Demonstrating trust and honesty will help your people perform at their best.
4. Inspirational leaders coach people.
Inspirational leaders want to help their staff grow and develop. They know that just as an athlete needs the guidance of a coach, so too does the team need guidance.
Inspirational leaders actively engage with their staff and offer authentic, insightful coaching. Rather than just giving feedback on a piece of work, they offer holistic feedback and support to their staff. The team knows that their leader has their back, and feels confident in the relationship.
An inspirational leader will make the effort to find a way to improve workplace relationships and have a deep impact on those they work with. A good leader delegates well, provides clear instruction, and is available for questions.
An inspiring leader goes beyond this, seeing both the bigger picture of their employee’s careers, and making a personal investment in their team. They coach, guide, empower, and most importantly, they care. It’s not just about the task at hand, but also about the person in front of them.
An inspirational leader challenges their people, giving them space to make mistakes. They help their team to grow, develop, and become leaders themselves. Good is an admirable starting point, but inspiring leaders change lives.
My belief is that leadership is about engaging, coaching, inspiring and empowering the people around you to be the best they can be.
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