And, What can the Average Working Joe do about this?
Have you ever observed the energy, focus, and peaceable state of the truly inspired and inspiring leader? Hopefully you will have worked closely with someone on their way up or an exceptional person pursuing excellence – Passionately radiating light, wisdom and enthusiasm to all those around them.
In this piece, we will explore what the phenomenon of inspiration is all about and answer some of the questions you may have about how these remarkable people came to be great in the first place, why some of us mere mortals are not so inspired, and, in closing, we will bring it all together to see what can be borrowed or stolen from these shining stars for our own amusement, benefit and improvement.
11 Qualities Of An Inspirational Leader
The common factor linking all inspirational people is single-mindedness. Question – If I ask you today, what one industrial sector, single product or service would you focus on, to the exclusion of all other things for 7 days a week for the next 10 years, what would you select?
Answer – If you came up with anything just now, you may have the potential to join the pantheon of greats. If you felt scarce, fearful or overwhelmed when faced with making a critical choice and excluding all other things, then you are… NORMAL!
The vast majority of us wish to keep our options open, hedge our bets – Indeed we believe that risk is reduced this way. The price we pay for our safety is that we will never make a Steve Jobs’ sized dent in the universe.
It is laser focus excluding all distractions, (along with some of the other factors described below) that differentiates the truly inspiring leader.
- Work Hard Play Hard, Or Just Work Hard?
Magazine profiles of successful people mostly contain visceral descriptions of their wealthy, comfortable and luxurious life styles and the extraordinary benefits, exclusive access and general privilege that they now enjoy.
These puff pieces miss the point.
The formula for sustained success is abstinence, self-control, frugality and temperance. The venal and self-indulgent tend to be entitled brats – The offspring of dynasties or “clogs to brogues” parents. Many of these silver spooned party animals will end up in jail, rehab or sitting injured having wrapped their luxury car around a tree.
It is not about the trappings.
These can be seen as simply a visible measure of success (as if life was a video game.) The other end of the showing off scale is more useful to observe. Warren Buffett, the most successful investor of all time, lives nowhere, in an average house and drives an average car – And, he is the best.
Sustained hard work requires that we move beyond laziness, passivity and inaction. Once we have conquered our lethargy, the next demon temptation to be resisted is giving in too early to the rewards of our initial success – Victory lies in restraint. We must win out over our primitive lust to consume and our need to alter our psychological state. If we can get passed this, then we reach the final, where we are asked to… conquer ourselves. Success will amplify our essential personality. If you are an asshole now, then building a global empire will turn you into a world-class asshole. Many would look at the lives of Zuckerberg or Gates and find them dull (who wants to wear a grey T shirt every day or spend 10 years + coding?) Their stimulation and psychological pay off came from turning ideas into innovation and having that innovation take hold, and, then be super adopted by the world. And, through making an impact on a scale that only they could ever have believed in. Formula – Hard work, discipline, focus, single-mindedness, etc. etc.
Who is inspirational?
- Being an Agent of Change
Question – Are you more inspired by a humble hard working entrepreneur’s eventual success or by a brash and vulgar show-off? Answer – Your reaction probably says more about you than them. Industrial growth requires a blend of just the right amount of God Complex and hard work, combined with an exhibition and demonstration of repeatable behaviours, shown to acolytes as the inspiring leaders radiates out their model of winning behaviours that others can then copy and carry out on a vast scale and at great pace. The leader is a working role model, modelling the best version of what is possible to be picked up, adopted and multiplied by their followers. You are only a leader if others choose to follow and you must be relatable in the workspace, so that average Working Joe will want to join your club. With this formula your crowd of fans will grow in devotion aiming to emulate your example.
The inspiring leader must be seen to be working harder than their staff, contributing more input, and, generating plenty of unique output connected to measurable success. It is this loop that deepens the tribe’s faith in the leader’s brand, myth and legend and so carries the crowd on a cushion of trust and belief to perform with excellence, even when the boss is not present.
- Engagement & Delegation
Over the years I have had the privilege to work with some of the greats. They are, mostly, easy to talk to, charismatic and fluent, clear and simple in their communication style, and, generous with their time and attention. They appear to have plenty of free mind space and intellectual bandwidth. They indulge the newbie with curiosity, constructive enquiry and emanate encouragement. In fact, they often skip Blanchard’s “Tell” phase (from his Situational Leadership model) and move right along to inspirational coaching.
They use a mechanism.
No man is an island. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and, you need a lot of people to build a cathedral. Inspiring leaders know that it is about inducting people to your vision, your version and your club. Then, it is about engaging the hearts and minds of your new acolytes. Now comes the ordinary bit – Thinking up and organising what the new, high potential worker bees will actually be doing. This turns a visionary blue print for world domination into an on the ground, reality based, work project.
Heads of Global web platforms, dominant software companies, World beating manufacturers, super financial institutions, or, far-reaching retailers have something in common – They understand their subject matter and domain to the highest possible level. And, these leaders are able to communicate, despite the complexity of their sector, in a way that is hypnotically engaging, authentically exciting, and clearly, beneficial to their new workers and the end customer. This level of depth is achieved not ascribed. They must hone their vision and translate their dream into the most inspiring story and present this to all around them with a deep and insightful knowledge of the hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations of their audience. They must sing a song that everyone wants to hum along to.
- A Natural Born Influencer
Great leaders can emerge from the best of backgrounds or the worst. Both tracks end at the same station. Managed privilege can lead to “Nobless oblige” and the self-fulfilment of an in-group’s high expectations. Here many hot-housed princelings rise to the gold standard. They do so combining effort and access. Along the way they must develop resilience, confidence and pick up the secrets of success, whispered exclusively to members of their rarefied club.
In contrast, the 7th born of 9, brought up in poverty in the countryside can, in exceptional circumstances, rise up from obscurity to become something of note. With contrarian will, these extraordinary outliers grab their lucky break with both hands (finding a sponsor / mentor / conducing work environment) and work twice as hard as their peers, to make progress up the greasy pole. Think old Hollywood, Gerry Robinson (CEO of the Granada group of companies) or the stories of Billy Connolly coming from the slums of Glasgow.
- Obsession Obsession Obsession
What else but a pure and constructive form of obsession could have you loose everything TWICE, and, still want to get back on your entrepreneurial horse and try again? Their drive is unnatural and is not solely motivated by the goal itself but by their deep, burning and unanswerable question – “Am I good enough?” “Will I live up to my peer’s expectations?” “I am worthy?” “Am I loved?” Or, they are whipped by a mantra every waking hour – “I will never be poor again” “I will never go hungry again” “No one will laugh at my failure ever again” “I must be the best at this one thing” “Nothing will stop me” etc.
The consequence of these, quite frankly, unhealthy and exhausting drivers is a forged determination for progress, growth and forward momentum that laughs in the face of doubt, fatigue or taking an easier path.
The marriage of drive and discovery produces purpose – An all-consuming engine of work, invention, implementation and problem solving – Getting up, dusting yourself off and starting again and again and again.
Their purpose can be simple. If you wish your men to build a ship, inspire them with a vision of a far off and exotic land.
The inspiring leader’s vision must be clear, relevant, believable and achievable. We forget that Kennedy’s “We will land on the moon” speech was made almost a decade before the moon landings actually happened.
The inspirational leader begins with the why? Why this is important. Why does it matter? Why the benefits outweigh the risks, cost and effort. And, why change needs to happen.
Then comes the what? – Of before, and, the what? of after – Contrast is important in converting a speech into an effective instrument of inspiration.
Then, in small release batches, comes the how? – The method, route and many problem busting solutions.
- The Iceberg Leader
We need to remember that whilst we see the share price, the mansion and, maybe, choose to envy the lifestyle, we do not see the 1000s of hours and all the failures and defeats that went into creating the leader’s success evident today. We need to be reminded that they started in their parent’s garage. We do not focus on the multiple rejections that the inspirational leader suffered and successfully recovered from or the 99 other people who attempted the same thing and are now living in modest obscurity – Their version being one of the many versions that did not go on to be adopted by the masses. The current dignity and poise of our hero belies the struggle, the price paid and the pain overcome.
They laughed in the rain long before you saw them smiling in the sunshine.
The Iceberg Leader
- Why is Worker Joe Less Inspired or Inspiring than our Hero Leader?
Great question – You probably come from neither privilege nor poverty. You were not programmed by fear or favour. You were not drilled in hard work or subjected to punishments that needed to be escaped. Worker Joe was programmed for compliance, loyalty, community and belonging. Worker Joe was conditioned to settle for a quieter life, a safe life or one where physical and emotional pleasure came at the weekend and became the measure of happiness and success.
Not everyone is destined to be inspirational. In fact, if everyone became an entrepreneurial legend, then…who would muck out the stables or run the machines busily extruding plastic widgets?
- What Can Worker Joe Learn From The Inspirational Leader?
At last, we get to the payoff! The inspirational leader naturally assumed their place. For them, there never seemed a choice in this, or, a viable alternative. The same cannot be said of Worker Joe.
But Worker Joe can change.
Worker Joe can follow the inspirational leader’s behavioural formula, think like they do, drive hard like them and communicate like them too. Each moment or sentence is possible. Putting them all together though and sustaining action and momentum? – That is a different matter.
For you, there is now more thinking, choosing and voluntary sacrifice to contemplate before you decide to step up, step into the inspirational leader’s shoes, and, begin the long and hard journey to the top.
Are you ready to face yourself? If you wish to attempt the process of becoming an inspirational leader, it will be conscious and more difficult than it was for the people born to sit in the hot seat.
If you feel like trying on the cloak, do please reflect upon and answer some of the questions below…
Question 1 – If you had to choose to do one thing and one thing only for the next 20 years, what would it be? Where would it be? Who would be involved? And, why would you choose it? (And what sacrifices would you willingly make to stay on that path?)
Question 2 – Have you ever had the discipline to move beyond physical and emotional gratification to achieve something higher and more worthwhile? What was it? Did you stay the course and complete your journey? Did it pay off? And, are you prepared to step up, scale up and risk all by having another go now?
Question 3 – Have you ever succeeded in inspiring those around you (friends, colleagues or family) to attempt something new? Have you jumped up on a chair and broadcast your vision with passion, using the best of your persuasive abilities to inspire a hungry crowd? And, did it work? Did they buy into the future you were selling? Did they follow you? Did they take action? BTW – Did you get a big rush out of it? And, do you want to repeat that experience many times over?
How do you feel about your answers?
If you wish to have a conversation about inspirational leadership and learn more about our courses and coaching, then do call Matthew Hill today, leaving your details and availability on 07540 65 9995.
And, Please like, share and forward to the star in your tribe… Thank you.
About the Author
Matthew Hill is a coach, trainer, keynote speaker, author and, sometime leader of talent. He teaches and works with some of the largest companies in the world as well as helping young talent, SME companies and independent thinkers. His first book – Learn how to LEAD; Believe, Behave & Become was published in 2012 and is available now on Kindle.