August 28th, 1963. The day a leader was able to mesmerize a crowd of over 200,000 people in Washington DC. The day when one of the best speeches of modern time was presented. The day when African Americans stood for their civil rights. The day when the civil rights leader Martin Luther King put forward his “dream.”
Martin Luther King is just one of the many inspirational leaders that the world witnessed. He was intelligent. He was influential. He was eloquent. He was able to lead a crowd and inspire them. This is why he and his leadership traits are discussed even today.
The good news is that anyone can become a leader. A leader doesn’t necessarily have to propel the masses for a social change. Instead, leaders operate at a micro level too. You can lead a group at your school project to success. On the other end of the spectrum, you, like Steve Jobs, can inspire your employees to deliver.
Anyone can inspire those that surround them. However, it takes more than just the knowledge of how to change email signature. So, here’s what you need to know.
Be your team’s mentor
You might not think that you have a lot to share, but if you are in a leadership position, the chances are you do. After all, getting to such a position entails hard work and commitment. While you might not think much of it, but for your team, you are an embodiment of experience. These experiences and the lesson you learned from them can allow you to inspire others.
The best way to use this experience and knowledge is by becoming a mentor to your team. Remember, a teacher doesn’t just exist in a classroom setting. You have the power to inspire others by imparting your gained wisdom. People who have insights into life and interesting anecdotes to share don’t just make great leaders but also great mentors. You must strive to be both.
Empower your team
An inspirational leader is someone who knows when to give autonomy to his/her team. There is a certain extent to which you can centralize power in your own hands. It takes courage to let go of the power you hold. This is the courage needed to become a true leader.
Provide your team with the tools they need. Let’s take an organizational setting as an example. Imagine you are leading a sales team. Don’t concentrate decision making in your own hand and thereby struggle to keep up with it all. Instead, in such a role, a leader would provide his/her team with the tools needed. Provide them with a sales activity management system. Monitor their performance rather than controlling it every step of the way.
Tell them how it’s done and then give them the autonomy to do it. Your team will be inspired to perform when they know they are being believed in.
Be the example you want others to follow
Inspiration doesn’t just come from anecdotes and stories. Instead, people get inspired by other people. When they see how a given person is carrying himself, they are motivated to follow suit. As a leader, you must set a good example for your team to follow.
For example, if you want your team to be punctual, you must exercise it as well. You must follow your own rules and only then expect others to do the same. It isn’t fair to others to set unrealistic standards for them. Similarly, it is not fair to have dual standards either. If your team is required to be well prepared for meetings, you should too. If your team is putting in extra hours during the busy days, so should you. Actions matter when trying to motivate others.
Empathy is key
While IQ is required for entry-level positions, EQ is what really matters when it comes to becoming a leader. A very important part of EQ is empathy. Some people are naturally gifted with a high EQ. They know how to empathize. They know when to reach out and when to hold back. These are the people that make great leaders. Just because you struggle with empathy doesn’t mean you can’t be a good leader. It is a skill that can be learned. How so? By learning to listen. By learning to read between the lines. By being considerate.
Here is a scenario for you. One of your team members, who is usually energetic, hasn’t been participating in meetings as actively as before. While his performance isn’t bad per say, it is not as exceptional as it used to be.
As a mere businessman, you would think that as long as his performance isn’t being affected, you shouldn’t care. After all, efficiency is all that matters, right? Well, a leader would approach the situation differently. A leader would ask the team member out on a dinner and inquire the reason in an empathetic way. A leader would try to see if he/she can be of any help. An inspirational leader will try to be a human first and a boss later. And this what makes all the difference.
Learn to be humble
As a leader, it is important to understand that you are not the sun. You are supposed to be at the center of attention if you wish to be an inspiration to others. There is a difference between sharing your experiences for the betterment of others and boasting. It is a fine line that you should never cross.
If you wish to become an inspiration for others, humility is a trait you must possess. Don’t over exaggerate your role. Don’t make your team feel that they can’t function without you. Instead, downplay your role. Tell your team that they are driving while you are in a backseat. They are the ones operating while you are merely looking over them. Be humble about your role and success.
Becoming a leader that inspires others can seem hard at times. But, once you understand the essence of it, nothing can stop you from being the leader others aspire to become.
Andrea Bell is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.
Find her on Twitter:@IM_AndreaBell