What is the leadership trait that is most admired by others, most desired by leaders themselves, and most required by senior executives for their teams? Its importance applies not only for current, but for future success. It transcends geographies, cultures, and generations. Its meaning has global significance, but may vary in its local application.
This most admired global leadership trait is Inspiration.
In 2014-15, over 2700 business professionals from 122 countries were asked about the traits that they most admire in leaders both today, and the ones that are necessary to be successful in the future. In all cases, no matter how the data was analyzed, Inspiration ranked first.
In 2013, IBM released the results of a survey of 1700 global executives in 64 countries who were asked what top executives want from their leaders. The ability to Inspire was among the top 3 responses.(2)
Why does Inspiration rate so highly as a desirable trait?
Each of us should be able to think of a leader with whom we’ve worked who we would define as Inspirational. In many cases, being around such a person made us perform better, stretched our creative abilities, and encouraged us to do something we would not have otherwise attempted. These leaders attracted others to them, and sparked thought provoking conversations. Their styles probably varied, but their authentic approach to leadership made a meaningful difference.
Too often, leaders are focused primarily on themselves or their tasks. They become caught up in their power, their position, or business problems to be solved. They expect employees to independently be self-motivated, results focused, and to understand the purpose of their work.
Instead, Inspiring leaders focus on others. They cast a vision of the future, connect people with it, and coach them to high performance. Inspiring leaders elicit a positive emotional response from those they interact with, that draws others to them. People want to join their team, and become a part of their successes. They truly believe that people development is the key to organizational success.
So how can you become an Inspiring leader, or how can you improve your ability to inspire others?
Here are 10 tips to get you started.
- Be authentic. Acknowledge and share your own feelings, hopes and dreams for your team and your organization.
- Be caring. There’s a saying, “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”
- Be listening. Hear more about what people are not saying than what they are saying. Create an environment where they feel comfortable enough to tell you what you didn’t ask them.
- Be courageous. Be willing to tackle knotty problems and remove roadblocks to support them in their work.
- Be curious. Find out what motivates your team members. Identify their strengths and interests and try to align their work with it.
- Be visible. Spend time interacting and communicating with the team. Let them get to know you, and invest time in getting to know them.
- Be developing. Make it a priority to ensure that each member of your team has a developmental plan in place and that you are actively supporting their accomplishment of it; even if it means that they may one day leave your team.
- Be open. Embrace new ideas, perspectives and trends and actively discuss them with the team.
- Be consistent. The team needs to know what behavior to expect from you, to anticipate your decisions, and to feel that they are being treated fairly.
- Be engaging. Involve the team in setting the goals and charting the path to accomplish them. Let them own it and accept full responsibility for accomplishing it.
The key is to start the journey and make it a priority to learn your uniquely inspiring style. Remember that an inspired team is more productive, innovative and motivated to do more with less. This doesn’t mean taking advantage of the team, but instead ensuring that they feel engaged in the success of the organization, and that they know you value their input.
So develop the most important leadership trait…be inspiring.