What Does It Take to Be an Inspiring Leader?

Every manager and entrepreneur dreams of becoming an inspiring leader that people would gladly follow. Some people have a natural leadership instinct, but what if you weren’t born with such exceptional skills? Can you learn how to be inspiring to others?

Science says there are ways you can train yourself so that people listen to you and follow your lead. Here’s what I found to be useful for anyone willing to go on this journey of inspiring leadership.

Photo by Eugene Lim on Unsplash

Demystifying the phenomenon of inspiration

We’re obsessed with how a few iconic figures managed to make history. Just look at how many articles out there talk about Steve Jobs or Richard Branson. Such articles incessantly bring up different aspects of inspirational leadership. Things like what amazing leaders do first thing in the morning, what books they read, what “weird” habits they have, and, especially, how they lead others. I, for one, get the impression that there is a wide audience out there that is looking for outstanding solutions to everyday problems.

At the same time, we all realize it’s hard to copy the life and achievements of someone like Steve Jobs. And that’s alright, because probably our challenge is not to build the new iPhone. We’re looking to solve more simple issues, like helping our teams provide better customer service, manage projects more efficiently or simply communicate better.

In the article called “You Don’t Need Charisma To Be an Inspiring Leader”, the author outlines his research results on the phenomenon of inspiration. As it turns out, you don’t need to be Jobs to inspire change and productivity in your team. You just have to lead by example.

“Change agents don’t have to be brilliant or charismatic in order to inspire change. If you can make a decision, you can inspire change” – Nick Tasler for HBR.org

To be a great leader, lead yourself first

As I said earlier, the power of example is the spark that lights up change in others. In order to become a true leader and a model for others, you first need to be able to lead yourself, meaning that you have to organize your work as well as you’d like to see others do it. In her book, “Becoming the Boss: the New Rules for the New Generations”, author Lindsey Pollak proposes three strategies to help you lead yourself.

  1. First, don’t panic! Today’s business environment can be overwhelming. With new technologies and ideas emerging every day, there are bound to be moments when you feel afraid of failure. Worrying is a normal reaction, but what you need to do is learn how to handle it.
  2. Another strategy is to ask yourself in moments of fear, “Do I really want this?” For example, do you want that pay raise more than you fear having to share your apartment with other people? Do you want your business to succeed more than you are afraid of failing? If the answer is yes, go for it!
  3. The third strategy is to learn more and work harder. Which skills do you need to improve? Find inspiration in the lives of others that chose a similar career path.

A good leader is a great communicator

Of all the three strategies proposed by Lindsey Pollak, the third one is probably the most vague. There is so much information out there on leadership, management, and entrepreneurship that no one could ever read in an entire lifetime. Not to mention that you probably need an entire lifetime to even master one skill. So where do you start?

Many scientists and book authors agree on the fact that effective communication is one of the fundamental skills of a successful leader. In fact, even most managers agree on this point.

A study conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies on more than 1,400 leaders and managers revealed that 43% of respondents identified communication skills as the most critical skill set, while 41% identified the inappropriate use of communication as the number one mistake a leader makes.

If you think it over, the relationship between a great communicator and a great leader is quite intuitive. A good communicator can inspire action, resolve conflicts, and just make everyone feel safe to express themselves at work.

Luckily, none of us are born excellent communicators, but anyone can learn how to become one. The necessary skills are fairly straightforward and the following advice will help.

    • Focus on the “how” just as much as on the “what”. There are many ways to communicate information and it’s key to find the best way to reach your teammates. If the information is either extremely positive, extremely negative, or confidential, try talking face to face to avoid misunderstandings. Sensitive conversations should be handled accordingly.
    • If there is considerable amount of information you need to get across, do it in writing. This way, you make sure your entire message goes through and it’s not lost.
  • Should you need a quick response, opt for an instant communication tool, like Hubgets. Today, this might be a leader’s most essential tool. Everything needs to happen now, feedback and responses can’t wait, and what other tool can help you communicate better than an instant communication and collaboration app?

Aspiring leaders, get set!

The business world is changing rapidly and the concept of leadership is changing along with it. In order to be an inspiring leader, don’t get stuck in the old ways, prepare yourself for what the new generations are looking for. Communication is definitely key to your future success.

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