Your leadership style is important during ordinary times.
These days, though, your leadership strengths and weakness are being put to the test, aren’t they? You don’t have the benefit of bringing your team together in an office…workshops and training sessions are more challenging to conduct.
With so many teams working remotely, leaders are grappling with ways to keep cohesion within and across departments – to effectively maintain and build their business.
The leadership style you choose can smooth over these unforeseen wrinkles…and some are better than others.
Say Good-Bye to Command and Control.
The concept of “leadership” has evolved. Business leaders came to understand that the traditional ‘command and control’ method of achieving success was no longer working. “Do as I say and don’t ask questions,” rarely appeals to anyone in any setting…and commerce is no exception.
But how to adapt? In an effort to redefine and reapply leadership styles, the concept came to be seen as more of a technical skill…and bookshelves are stacked with leadership books to prove it.
A quick Google search of the phrase “leadership skills” nets millions of possible sources of information from various authorities.
The prevalent style to emerge from that original sea of methodologies was a “motivational model”…managers were coached on ways to “motivate” their team. But is it the best framework for effective leadership?
Is motivational leadership a losing proposition?
The dictionary definition of motivation is “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” Motivational leaders are tasked with inducing, initiating, and influencing their team…it’s a self-based system intended to get another to behave as we wish.
Leaders are tasked with “lighting a fire underneath” their employees.
Motivational metaphors are pervasive in the workplace and are typically centred around three themes: war, sports, and Darwin.
So you’ll hear phrases like…
- It’s a battleground out there and it’s time to launch our new campaign.
- We knocked it out of the park last quarter, way to hit the competition.
- It’s a jungle out there, only the strongest will survive.
They might be “motivational” but there’s a flaw in the language…can you spot it?
They’re all adversarial: win or lose. If we win, someone else loses…and that’s not a healthy culture to create, because that win-or-lose philosophy may find its way into other aspects of your organization. Ones that don’t result in the most positive outcomes.
That’s why I encourage my clients to consider an “inspirational” leadership style, instead.
Spirare Leadership – lighting the fire from within.
Inspire – from the Latin ‘spirare’ – means spirit, to affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence. To inspire another is to fill them with enlivening or exalting emotions…to animate them.
When we inspire someone, then, it’s an act of service and giving. It’s about lighting their fire from within.
Shifting your leadership model from motivation to inspiration is about becoming a conscious leader. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods built his brand with the belief that conscious leaders create a shared purpose. They reveal the meaning in each person’s job, they don’t fix people – instead they help them grow. They create win-win strategies.
Take a look at your leadership style. Where to fall on the spectrum of command and control to motivation to inspirational?
Now, think of the words of Deepak Chopra. “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”
7 Steps to Inspire – be the pioneer.
- Ignite your enthusiasm. Inspiring leaders are inspired themselves.
- Navigate the way. Inspiring leaders articulate a vision that is bold, clear, concise, and consistently communicated.
- Sell the Benefit. Inspiring leaders answer the one question that everyone has on their mind: what’s in it for me?
- Paint a picture. Inspiring leaders paint a picture of a world made better by their service, product, company, or cause.
- Invite participation. Inspiring leaders go beyond “listening.” They invite employees into the process of growing the company.
- Reinforce optimism. Inspiring leaders are more optimistic than the average person.
- Encourage potential. Inspiring leaders encourage people to be their best selves.
Take a moment to think back on your recent workdays. Were you inspired, optimistic, encouraging? Did you paint a bold and colourful picture with your employees as the heroes? I realize this is especially challenging given that your team is likely meeting on Zoom or some other online platform…but they are still steps you can take.
These seven steps don’t have to happen all at once. Choose one – perhaps one that you feel you’re close to mastering already – and commit to practicing it with more intention. You’ll see a transformation in your team…you’ll see them become ignited from within.
If you’d like to explore ways to become an inspirational leader there are resources available. Or you can contact me and we can discuss ways to ignite your corporate culture in meaningful, lasting ways.
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This article was originally published in 2016 but has been updated for 2020.