What makes an inspiring leader

The great leaders in history have a quality that truly sets them apart from the rest. This quality, this charisma is described as Simon Sinek, New York Ties best-selling author as an ability to “think, act and communicate from the inside out”. But what does this really mean, and can everyday leaders and managers develop this ability? Sinek points out that the majority of leaders start from the outside in. They start with the “what”; “what are we trying to achieve”, “what are we trying to sell”. Exceptional leaders, on the other hand, ones that can inspire their followers, start with the “why”. The why being the purpose, or the bigger picture of what you are doing. It’s the “why” that then leads to the “what”.

In his 2009 TED talk, he uses Apple’s branding and marketing as a great example of this. “If Apple were like everyone else they would say “we make great computers, they’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?” Instead Apple says, “everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo; we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” The difference in this is significant. Sinek argues, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Apple starts with the “why” instead of with the “what” and it seems their strategy is working pretty well. Apple became the world’s first trillion dollar public company last week, as a rise in its share price pushed it past the landmark valuation.

Not only can forward-thinking companies use this kind of strategy for their brand and marketing, but they can apply it to their company culture, their leadership programs and the kind of people they employ. Staff who are inspired by their leaders are connected to the higher meaning of the company they work for, they have a good understanding of their contribution to something bigger than themselves and this greater purpose becomes the driving force for everything they do in their day-to-day jobs. So how can we put this inspiring leadership concept into practice? Here’s 5 simple steps to apply this it to your own leadership techniques:

  1. Start with the ‘why’: Everyone knows “what” it is they do. Most know “how” to do it, but very few know or live and breathe the “why”. It’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger purpose of your organisation and get bogged down in our day to day jobs, but it’s vital we stay connected to the greater meaning or purpose and use it to set the path for everything we do. If you lose sight of the “why” it is you do what you do, you can’t expect your staff to follow you or be inspired by you. The “what” you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe. Check in with yourself daily, to ensure you are staying relevant. 

    As Sinek points out “Every company, organization or group with the ability to inspire starts with a person or small group of people who were inspired to do something bigger than themselves”. Remind your team of the actual purpose of the business, the belief and the vision of its founders, and the greater good it is doing and how they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. Convey stories of how your company has actually helped its people, its customers. Let them know of how much money they helped to raise with charity events and who they actually helped. Keep them connected to the higher meaning that they are a part of to keep the connection strong and real.
  2. Have consistency. If you’re not consistent in the things you say and do, no one will know what you believe, not your staff, nor your market. Everything you do and say should be inspired by your “why”, your bigger purpose. It ought to set the culture and tone for everything you do, from internal communication and management to external communication. 
  3. Communicate well. Good communication is not just about telling others what you think, it’s about ensuring others hear what we mean. This involves open communication and active listening so employees feel their feedback and views are taken seriously. Good communication requires leaders to actively build rapport with their staff. If employees are made to feel safe and secure in their workplace and under their leadership, if they are valued and constantly reminded of the part they play in the greater purpose of the organisation, they will stay motivated and feel inspired. At every opportunity, ask yourself “am I leading with the ‘why’? Am I connected to the higher purpose in this conversation and am I making my staff feel connected too?
  4. Create tomorrow’s leaders. Good leaders teach other people how to become leaders. Develop a culture that inspires staff and allows them to thrive. Exceptional leaders go above and beyond to teach their leadership skills to their team to pave the way for inspiring leaders for the future. Set up programs to teach staff human interaction skills like active listening, effective communication and conflict resolution. Volunteer your time to mentor those who work for you. Think outside the box when it comes to your incentivisation programs. All these initiatives will ensure your staff feel they are working in an environment that believes in them and they will feel inspired. 
  5. Be curious. Think about how you can make your company and your staff better. If you truly believe in building your staff to be the best versions of themselves you should be open to new ideas, to their ideas, to new ways of doing things and don’t be afraid to use trial and error in your own leadership techniques. Be open to feedback and willing to make bold changes to the way things are done to better align you and your company with it’s higher purpose. Being curious involves being open to experimentation and committed to the “why” so you are not opposed to changing the “how” to get there.

Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

Share News