How great leaders inspire performance
Of all the competencies that we value in leaders, it is the ability to inspire and be inspirational that rises to the top. To some this is natural, to others, it is learnt and practised.
This is a core requirement for leaders – people want to work for people they know, like, and trust. In short, people want to follow people that they can believe in – and are inspired by.
Earlier Moment of Clarity articles have shed light on the complex nature of how employee engagement is driven by a combined sense of purpose and progress. It is in the area of purpose that an inspirational leader who has a clear sense of direction, a “north star” that can be easily articulated and a clear vision for how to get there, becomes the architect of greatness by bringing a team along with them on their journey.
This opportunity to inspire engagement is not limited only to the C-suite; it extends to all managers and their individual understanding and commitment to what it means to inspire. It also is critical for parents and community leaders. For each individual, it provokes distinct thoughts, feelings, and definitions. It is important for all of us to look deeply at ourselves to evaluate our ability to inspire and be inspiring.
To help you get the most value out of our research and learnings over the years, here are seven things everyone can do to inspire performance:
Inspiration is about providing clarity. All leaders and employees need to know, understand, and embrace the foundational elements of the company. When leaders are clear with their vision and belief system, people are willing to follow. This is even more powerful when the vision and north star are clearly aligned to core values.
Performance is driven not just by the environment, rather by expectations leaders set. When people know what is expected and understand their role in the success of the company, they will go far beyond what is expected. We impede people when we do not set expectations. If your team does not have clear roles and responsibilities, effective delegation, support, collaboration and reporting are harder to achieve.
Create a culture of positivity and inspiration. Many organisations frame their culture on ambiguous terminology. Instead, choose powerful phrases and create definition and meaning. Then, add behaviours that help to provide clarity and connect the people across the company with shared ways of working and being. Purposeful companies find creative ways to project these phrases into their workplace.
Reject the concept of compliance. Many companies are allowing a compliant mindset (do the minimum in order to meet a requirement) and the resulting culture can derail performance. In a way, this encourages employees to perform up to or down to in many instances, the lowest common standard. When we embrace full commitment over compliance, we are erasing the bar and allowing employees the freedom to set goals which they can achieve and exceed – and thus to truly perform.
Humanise connections across the company and workforce. When we humanise connections, we actively work to create more intentional and purposeful relationships. It is up to the leader to shun the corporatisation that is seeping into business and become more vulnerable, more honest, more open – more human. Inspirational people lead with vulnerability and authenticity.
Create a collaborative, accepting environment where 100 per cent of the truth becomes the norm. There are too many conversations where leaders are overly cautious and dangerously, politically correct. Everyone is talking but no one is saying what they really mean or need to say. Truth is power, and with it comes the ability to change for the better.
Choose recognition over reward. While rewards are important, recognition by leaders and peers creates a different level of performance that is more durable and sustaining. Find ways, both formal and informal, to recognise and to empower people around you. It changes and inspires them, the people around them and you!
Being inspirational is about being real. It is about setting real expectations and clear pathways for what can be achieved. It is about connecting with others on a very personal and more human level. It is about expressing vulnerability. It is about leading from example – not simply managing. It is about eliminating fear in the workplace and embracing positivity as a leadership methodology. It is about understanding ourselves as the leader and being committed in our own development and ability to inspire.
Being inspirational is leading with clarity of purpose, value, and direction.