Typically, when I ask people to name someone that has inspired them, they would say, Simon Sinek, Nelson Mandela, Brené Brown, Emmeline Pankhurst, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or some other figure in the public eye that has achieved something phenomenal in their lives. And whether it’s someone from this short list or a different inspiring leader that springs to mind for you, most of us would choose a celebrity type figure.
I want to challenge your thinking on inspiring leadership. I believe we can all be inspiring. I believe we are all capable of leading others, whether we have a manager title or not. We can all be inspiring. You are possibly already doing it, but not aware of it yet. And how good would that be if you already had all the tools to be an inspiring leader, but just needed a little bit of help in becoming more aware of what it looks like and how to do it.
We’ve all been inspired by someone normal during our lives. Someone like you and me, who didn’t set out to inspire you. They were just doing their thing. They were just being normal, but they did something that led you to change the way you do things or take on something that scared you a bit. They behaved in a way that inspired you to act. As a result of your interaction with this person, you started to behave in a way that you were not behaving before.
Have a think about that for a minute. Who have you met in recent years, in your day-to-day life, that has behaved in a way that has led you to do something different? Someone who has challenged your thinking and changed your perception, which has led to you taking action.
Who are these people? Do you think you could write 3 names down now? Do it! And tell them thank you!
Some of you may be lucky enough to have written down Richard Branson, Karren Brady, and Alex Ferguson, but for most of us we will be much closer to home. Very close to home. The people that have inspired you the most and will continue to inspire you are probably around you most of the time. Can you see them?
The inspiring leaders in our day to day lives are not climbing Everest or circumnavigating the globe to influence how we think and feel. They quite often don’t even know they are doing it and are not achieve big hairy audacious goals. They have a raw humanness about them that just blows us away. We doth our caps to them and say “Wow”, because we appreciate the vulnerability they have shown in what they are doing. We watch in awe and just say it out loud, “how inspiring”.
Let me provide you with a flavour of what every day inspiring leadership may look like:
Inspiring Leaders Show Courage
They have fears and obstacles in their way just like we do, but they show up with boldness and do it anyway. They have managed to turn bravery into a habit. They get the rush of adrenaline when the fear kicks in, the self-talk is saying “you can’t do this, turn back”, but they push through it. They manage the fear and even have the audacity to smile as they walk into the darkness or uncertainty. They mess up, they fail, they fail a lot, they don’t always know what to do. But they keep showing up, and they keep getting up. They fail 7 times, but they get up 8.
You must have seen this happen. Who do you know that has shown bravery recently?
Inspiring Leaders Empathise with Others
They are very capable of parking their own stuff and putting time aside to sit and listen to others without judging them. They do it because they care. They get below the skin of what is going on for others and tune in to their needs. When on the receiving end of someone showing empathy, you feel valued, you feel seen by the other person and you feel connected and less alone. You know the person has their own stuff to deal with, but you feel like they have genuinely parked all that stuff to sit, listen and support you.
Who around you shows great empathy for others? Who has empathised with you?
Inspiring Leaders are Truly Authentic
They are super genuine, and you trust them. There is no hidden agenda with people who are authentic. When they speak you can’t help but lean in. They speak their own truth. Their honesty and openness has you captured. And I’m not referring to the type of authenticity that sounds like, “I tell it like it is me, so if that upsets you, so what”. I mean the kind of authenticity that has been worked on and honed to be an effective tool for engaging and connecting with others. It’s admirable when people show that level of vulnerability, just be themselves and continue to work on it. Particularly in a work role. So many people wear a mask to work and that is such a shame when we spend so much of our lives in a work environment.
Who around you is authentic and really effective in connecting with others with it?
Inspiring Leaders Work on Themselves
They are humble and always willing to put their hand up and say, “I don’t know”, or “I’m not good at that”. They have a constant commitment to self-improvement and inspire us with their continuous progress. You wonder whether they could get any better than where they are, but they constantly surprise you with their efforts to reach their potential. And quite often it’s deep personal stuff. The areas they work on developing need a lot of soul searching and hard work. It’s usually behavioural change, but they never shy away. They just keep on growing. And it inspires us because it gives us permission to be vulnerable and give it a go. They make it possible for us.
Who in your life shows that level of commitment to what is possible with self-development?
Inspiring Leaders Demonstrate Kindness
They smile in the face of adversity and maintain a position of positivity and being inclusive. Their kindness draws us in like a magnet. They express gratitude for what they have around them and the people that are part of their lives, both personally and professionally. They have a love for people and are all about lifting others up. I’m sure most of us have had someone who has been kind to us. It’s usually the small things, but it makes you feel great. You feel appreciated and you get a warm glow inside. What a gift to do this for others and have such an impact.
Who is showing love and gratitude in your life?
Inspiring Leaders Believe in Making a Difference
They are supporting a cause, a higher purpose that is greater than themselves. They never lose sight of their why and strive to make a difference that creates a positive ripple around them. They are selfless in supporting their cause. They don’t want praise and recognition. They are doing what they believe in and that is enough. They quite often don’t appreciate the depth and breadth of the ripple effect they are causing. They seem to have an infinite capacity to change the world around them. Full of energy and life they inspire us to join them in making a difference.
Who is creating a positive ripple around you that is making a difference for others?
Everyday inspiring leadership is all around us. You will already be doing a lot this without knowing it and so will others around you. Being inspiring does not need to be attached to a huge goal. Not that there is anything wrong with having goals. That’s a brilliant thing to do. But any one of us can inspire others on a daily basis. We can achieve goals too, but sometimes we just need to inspire our teams, our families, our friends, and sometimes even strangers, just by how we are being. By how we show up every day and behave.
There are 2 things I would like you to take away from reading this:
1. What can you work on to inspire others around you?
2. Who could and should you recognise around you for being inspiring? (Tell them then!)
This article was written by the Founder & Managing Director of the Manufacturers Alliance, Gary Sheader. Gary is keen to really push the boundaries in the manufacturing sector and ensure the sector thrives throughout the 21st century. He sees inspiring leadership as key to this and loves to help people grow to become the best leader they can be – to reach their full potential.