Inspire (from the Latin inspirare) means to breathe life into another.
Given the powerful meaning behind the word, it certainly makes sense considering how often it is used in the context of leadership, with possibly the most well known among them being John Quincy Adams’ quote; “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” With Adam’s broad definition of a leader, we may ask ourselves, how many opportunities do we actually have to lead on any given day, to inspire, or as elegantly defined above, to breathe life into another?
Most people will answer the question with one word: countless. However, unfortunately and quickly they follow their answer with a testament on how many of these opportunities they tend to miss and/or misstep everyday. So in giving this some thought there are three simple truths I reflect on when it comes to inspiring others:
It’s about Building Trust and Relationships
When it comes to leadership behavior and desired outcomes, I contend it is “what you do before you do what you do that matters most”. To be inspiring requires two things first: relationships and trust. Relationship implies connection and trust is the confidence that the connection is built on honesty and integrity. Our ability to inspire others begins with how they feel about us. Better said, people won’t believe you until they believe in you.
Looking for Opportunities to Lead
We get, on average, 9,000 stimuli per day and at last check that number is growing. Somewhere among them are those leadership moments, those opportunities to make a difference and fill someone up. The Theologian Albert Schweitzer said, “In everyone’s life, at some time or another our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flames by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Many of us believe we can see when someone’s “inner fire goes out.” It may just be a matter of us opening our eyes to them, and selflessly committing the time to do something about what we are seeing.
An Affair of the Heart
People connect through emotions, not rational facts. Great agencies are built on the theory and great leaders the understanding that igniting passion and inspiring the best in others is an emotional endeavor. Leadership is clearly an affair of the heart and the extent to which leaders can love and be loved in the workplace is directly related to their ability to inspire those around them. More than any time in recent history, leaders are appreciating the value of people and recognizing the responsibility to ensure their employees realize their full potential.
Along with this realization is the recognition that leadership is about relationships and the opportunity to inspire others to become everything they are capable of becoming, which requires leaders to open their eyes and hearts. Once activated, inspiration becomes the oxygen that fuels extraordinary potential in others and, over time, the greater organization as a whole.