Do You Have What It Takes To Be Inspiring?
"Mary, I need some inspiration.” This is what I heard one day from one of the staff members when I walked into my favorite local coffee shop. I know them well. I'm their unofficial den mother.
The word often puzzles me, especially when we are looking to someone else for inspiration. Lists of leadership traits often include the ability to inspire.
Can we actually inspire someone else deliberately or is it just the outcome of being ourselves?
What does inspiring some one involve?
I asked several of my cohorts in planting seeds of leadership from the Lead Change and Google+ communities. Here’s a whole batch of wisdom I got from them. Some themes emerged.
Lead From Who You Are
“Be positive, share who you are, uplift yourself at every turn and let it show. Share your vision profusely,” says Monica Diaz, fellow character-based leadership instigator, coach, educator, and passionate advocate of human connection.
Paula Kiger, Lead Change Group community manager, suggests to remain true to yourself. Don’t just change direction because of what the group wants or because of criticism. Be consistent day in and day out so people know to trust you will be there.
Be Transparent, Show vulnerability.
“I like to share how I may have failed and what I learned from it. I find that people respond well when they realize you are sharing something that isn't necessarily easy for you to discuss," says Christopher Zaucha, leadership aficionado in the construction industry.
“Be authentic. No faking. Be vulnerable. Prove you are human and that you make mistakes. Show that you learn from them and you grow,” says Chery Gegelman, Lead Change Group instigator and lead at Giana Consulting.
“Share your personal stories of overcoming challenges,” states Karesa Blagrove, inspiring team lead at The CBI Group.
Encouragement Is Key
“I might just encourage them to live their passion, share that passion with others, and show the world their joy," says John E. Smith, educator, facilitator, writer and fellow instigator.
David Dye of Lead Change Group Leading Voice and founder and president of Trailblaze, Inc. tells us, “The ability to inspire is not charisma. It's the message to another person that they can. Your confidence in your people becomes their belief in themselves,”
“We inspire when we do things that help others believe they can achieve their greatest goals. When we believe we can, we are inspired. When others help us believe, they inspire us.” says Mike Henry, Sr., founder, Lead Change Group.
Look To Your Own Experience
“Think about what has inspired you personally. I feel inspired when a leader includes me in decision-making, asking my opinions and considering my input. I feel inspired when I see a high-level leader work alongside the mailroom personnel to get a big job out the door… I feel inspired when a leader makes sacrifices… such as coming over to help clear the mud and debris from an employee's flooded house,” says Leigh Steere, co-founder of ManagingPeopleBetter.com.
Susan Mazza, Lead Change Group Leading Voice, author and founder of Random Acts of Leadership offers: “If you want to be inspiring to others be inspired BY them. My daughter’s lacrosse coach is masterful at this. He has created an upward spiral of energy. It is not hard to find things to be inspired by when you observe these girls as each year they live into a legacy of expectation for them to be great and do great things.”
What About You?
Back to my buddy in the coffee shop. I asked him what he meant when he was asking for inspiration. He said he needed motivation, not only at work, but in his personal relationships too. I would go so far as to say he was looking for encouragement – a mindset shift that would allow him to carry on with energy and confidence.
There are so many interpretations of inspiration. Next time someone uses that word, ask them what it means to him or her, and how you can help.
Love how this article came together. A terrific exploration of how to inspire others!
Thanks Susan. And thanks for your contribution. You have a post there too!
I’m inspired by ALL OF YOU!!! I only wish I had read this early in the morning! I’m reading it at 11 PM and now I’m all jazzed up!
Hi Page. Thanks for commenting. Does “jazzed up” = inspired? 🙂
Hi, Mary – very nicely organized and interesting post.
So the big takeaway I see is that to inspire others, you have to be inspired yourself, whether you find inspiration through self-reflection or from others.
As a goal, this beats the heck out of increased productivity, higher revenue, lower turn-over, and all those other measurements we throw around.
Now the question becomes (in my mind at least), “How or Can we measure inspiration?” Not an idle question – many of the essential leadership traits and qualities seem rather “unmeasurable”, at least by normal standards.
I don’t think we can get away with just saying “I know it when I see it”, even though that is undoubtably true.
What a GREAT question, John! Exploring that might end up as a blog post itself.
When I was an HR manager, and me and the managers I worked with tried to put our fingers on what makes someone inspiring (for instance), I tried to help them break down, “I know it when I see it.”
Does it look like people coming to a person spontaneously, to ask for advice? You could say that coffee shop employee (in my post) gave evidence that I was inspiring (to him) because he asked me for some directly 🙂
I’m reminded of those old EF Hutton TV commercials. (I am SO dating my age now…) The setting might be a loud, crowded restaurant, but when the EF Hutton rep began to speak, everyone hushed to hang on every word. In everyday life, would that mean listeners expect to be inspired? It could mean a number of things, but may be evidence of an ability to be inspiring.
Without conducting a study (maybe there is one out there), I don’t know, but I do look for how other people respond to the person in question when I am looking for evidence of teamwork, ability to gain cooperation, and inspiration, for instance — those things that seem difficult to measure.
You are reminding me of the book, Credibility, by Kouzes & Posner. I’ll bet they can answer your question better than me. Going to have to look that up today. Thanks for the thought-provoking question, John.