How to Be an Inspiring Leader

We often talk about engagement and motivation at work, but we do not as often use the more powerful word, inspiration. That is because, statistically, not enough leaders are in any way inspiring to their employees. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Bain & Company’s Eric Garton describes the unique circumstances that enable a leader to be truly inspiring to those working for him or her.

Elevating the Workforce

Here is Garton’s chief insight—collected from a survey of 2,000 people—on what makes for inspirational leadership:

It turns out that inspiration alone is not enough. Just as leaders who deliver only performance may do so at a cost that the organization is unwilling to bear, those who focus only on inspiration may find that they motivate the troops but are undermined by mediocre outcomes. Instead, inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.

The survey provided a list of 33 positive traits to potentially describe leaders, and interestingly, no specific set of traits stood out as a definitive feature set of inspirational leaders. Even more interestingly, a leader only has to resoundingly embody one of those traits in order to stand a high chance of being an inspirational figure. However, one trait that respondents did deem most important was “centeredness,” or an ability to empathize and remain calm under pressure.

Another factor involved in inspiration is how well that a leader’s defining features agree with organizational values. For instance, a leader who is a spectacular marketer will stand out exceedingly well in a business that derives its money from marketing. Leaders’ skills must fit like a glove with the business orientation to be optimally inspiring.

But what is it that inspirational leaders actually inspire people to do, exactly? Garton says inspirational leaders model patterns of behavior that enable employees to “break out of culture-weakening routines,” and he provides a few examples from Alcoa, Starbucks, and Ford. Think about how you can add yourself to that list of examples.

For additional insights, you can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/04/how-to-be-an-inspiring-leader

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