At work, we had a set of attributes that all leaders were measured against on an annual basis and one of these attributes was “Inspires Others.” Many of my managers rated me high in this category but one manager comes to mind that rated me the lowest on “Inspires Others” of all the attributes we were measured at work. I was very surprised by this since I had always been ranked high in this category before. When I asked what was behind the low rating, he said, “No one really knows what ‘inspires others’ is, and you can’t be rated high on everything, so this seemed like a good one to rate you lower on.”
At that moment I experienced uninspiring leadership. Because this manager didn’t pay attention to how I was actually viewed as a leader by those I led and didn’t put the effort into giving me a rating and feedback that would help me grow, he negatively inspired me. In other words, I was inspired to NOT be like him.
People often say they are inspired by something or someone, but what does this mean and how does inspiration happen? The Oxford dictionary definition of inspiration is: “The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative; or a person or thing that makes you want to be better, more successful, etc.” The Collins Dictionary definition of inspiration is “a feeling of enthusiasm you get from someone or something, which gives you new and creative ideas.” These definitions refer being mentally or emotionally stimulated towards creativity.
We are currently in the season of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and fall has always been particularly inspiring to me. Maybe it’s because my birthday is in fall, or maybe it’s the weather, or the excitement of a new school year when I was growing up. Whatever the reason, fall inspires me to get excited about new things and to be creative and make changes. I also feel that way in spring which is maybe because it’s following winter and there is hope for new growth.
At Seasons Leadership we use the four seasons of nature as a metaphor for leadership and for life. It makes sense that spring and fall seasons would be inspiring because both spring and fall are transitional seasons and seasons of creativity. Spring which we identify with the word “Awaken” is about new energy and creativity, elevating thinking and being inspired to explore possibilities, clarify a vision, and start a plan. Fall (Integrate) is about integrating insights and knowledge, building confidence in skills and practices, and of weeding out and letting go of what no longer serves you.
Conversely, summer and winter seasons are less “inspirational” by design. Summer (Cultivate) is about fertilizing and growing the possibilities we awakened to in spring. Summer is also about being in a state of flow, riding the wave, and implementing our plan. Winter (Transform) is about resting and taking quiet time to contemplate all we have learned and what has changed in our lives and leadership practices so that we can determine what is next for us in a new cycle of seasons.
Inspiration can come from many places. Reflecting on my life, I had several teachers who inspired me in high school. One particular teacher comes to mind, Ms. Thomas. She taught English and was also the drama coach. She seemed to recognize some enthusiasm or drive in me for telling stories and made it a point to give me feedback so that I could learn and grow. Her taking that interest in me was very inspiring because I felt seen and heard, and it encouraged me to always seek feedback and improve. In turn I continued to work on my writing skills and get involved more in creative activities such as theater and singing because of that inspiration.
Creativity is rewarding to me and when we are rewarded for a skill or behavior, either by leaders, teachers, or mentors, or we are rewarded by the satisfaction from the act of being creative, what we were inspired to do reinforces and generates more inspiration. In other words, it’s a positive cycle.
Creating a positive cycle of inspiration for others:
At Seasons Leadership we define a leader as someone who “motivates and inspires people to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise do.” How does a leader inspire others?
Throughout my corporate career, I had many inspiring leaders. These leaders were inspirational in different ways but inspiring traits that they all shared were that they were visionary and unselfish.
How can a leader be inspirational? Kathy Caprino in her Forbes.com article published July 24, 2016, “6 Powerful Traits Of People Who Inspire Others To Become Their Best,” lists six powerful traits of inspirational leaders:
1. They have immense courage.
2. They have deep empathy for others.
3. They express love and appreciation openly, and foster equality.
4. They are emotionally healthy.
5. They believe in collective power.
6. They've used all of themselves to make a difference.
Leadership is about serving others; it is about setting the vision and inspiring people to follow. If you want to know whether you are inspirational to others, start by asking yourself these questions:
1. Am I willing to set and communicate a vision for the future?
2. Do I encourage frank, two-way communication?
3. Do I recognize and reward those that contribute to the organization’s success?
4. Do I “walk the talk” to lead by example?
5. Do I put the collective good ahead of personal gain?
6. Do I demonstrate personal accountability?
If you can answer yes to these questions, you are on the right track to become an inspirational leader. And as I mentioned, inspiring your team will create a positive cycle of inspiration that will spread. These ripples can transform a team and even an organization which means understanding how you can inspire others is more important than ever.
Another way to achieve the goal of being an inspirational leader is to work with a coach. An ICF-certified leadership coach can help you identify your leadership strengths and opportunity areas and partner with you to help you realize your potential.
Seasons Leadership can help you become an inspirational leader. Here are three ways we can help:
1) Coaching: We are ICF-certified professional coaches. Have a free introductory call to explore coaching by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Leadership Excellence: Get access to exclusive information and offerings through our subscription site at: www.patreon.com/seasonsleadership
3) Customized Speaking & Workshops on leadership. Contact us at: email@example.com