When people think of inspirational leaders, they often refer to the great orators like Winston Churchill or Barack Obama.  These are leaders who are able to deliver a clear, clarion message that can impact the emotions of listeners and leave them feeling more inspired than before.

Thankfully, being an inspirational leader is not solely reliant upon standing up in front of a group of people and there are a few things that we can all work on that can assist us in getting more discretionary effort from our people.

Connect them to a story.  The art of story-telling is increasing in importance as more and more organisations understand that if they can connect their people to the narrative of their company, then they will have a better understanding of their role and function.

In my previous role as a Call Centre Manager, our story became an aim to become the number one centre in our organisation.  This became the narrative that we could then link outstanding behaviours to and could point people towards.  People who made significant contributions to their peers, customers and our business could then see how they were linked to something bigger.

Remind them of their importance.  If people feel faceless, then they will act accordingly.  However, if you can connect their role to the overall success of your business, they are more likely going to perform with pride and deliver great outcomes for you. 

One of my favourite quotes is from Mother Teresa and I’ve used it often with teams.  “You can do things that I can’t do, I can do things that you can’t do, together we can do great things!”  Helping your people to understand that when they do great work, it matters (and that the same is true when they perform at a mediocre level) can inspire them to greater heights.

Catch them doing the right thing.  It’s easy catching people doing the wrong thing, any manager can do that.  Inspirational leaders deliberately set out to catch people doing the right thing.  They acknowledge it when they see it, point it out to everyone around, make heroes of them in the workplace and reward the right behaviours. 

Use their strengths.  Every person has strengths and tapping in to their unique gifts and capabilities will assist them in adding significant value to your organisation whilst feeling important.  There are few things more inspiring than getting the opportunity to show how good you are and doing what you love.  Giving people these opportunities also consolidates the fact that they aren’t all faceless cogs in a large machine, but valuable people who have something positive to offer.

Give room for people to grow.  If you expect people to come in and just do their job day after day like worker bees, then you miss out on the unique opportunity to develop and coach them to greater things.  Some managers are afraid of developing their people in case they leave.  Great leaders understand that people will leave at some stage any way, so why not position them for better things in the knowledge that they will give you great press as an inspirational leader to work for.  People who are continuing to grow and develop and know that there is value in working for you will give a far greater discretionary effort than hamsters on a wheel.

Be a visible role-model.  You can’t genuinely inspire from a distance.  You need to get out from behind your desk and connect with people, talking with them, listening to them and role-modelling the type of enthusiastic, positive culture that you want in your organisation. 

Additionally, if you want to inspire others, you need to be inspired yourself.  You can’t blame others for putting in a half-hearted effort, if you’re doing the same.  Be conscious of becoming a fire-lighter in the workplace and get out there amongst the masses.

Communicate regularly.  This point probably wraps up all of the above.  You can’t just do all of this stuff occasionally or on an ad hoc basis.  One of the important lessons that I’ve learned over the years has been to rinse and repeat. 

I’m not suggesting that you cut and paste last week’s “nice” email and send it around again.  I’m saying that you need to look for different and creative opportunities to communicate your message on a regular and consistent basis.  People won’t always get the message the first time, but if you stick at it, you’ll get there.

The challenge of becoming a more inspirational leader continues to drive me in my efforts.  Hopefully these 7 tips are of assistance.

What tip for becoming a more inspirational leader would you add to this list?

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