Most leaders spend a lot of time and effort considering how they can best inspire their teams. Being able to lift people’s spirit and motivation is a vital skill, particularly in the turbulent and stressful times we all now work in.
But how much attention do we as leaders give to finding the inspiration we need first – for ourselves. Unless we are able to activate the enthusiasm and vitality that fuels our own creativity and effort, how can we hope to do the same for others?
Inspiration is not a feeling we can summon at will. Part of its allure arises from the fact it lies beyond our immediate control. However, a research study I have undertaken recently into the experiences of leaders from a wide variety of fields has generated some important insights. There are many ways in which we can increase the likelihood of inspiration visiting us. Here are seven to get you started:
1. Reflect on yourself
The first step is to carve out time to think about yourself and your leadership. It sounds simple, but so often we are swamped with exhausting back-to-back meetings and overflowing task lists. Creating some ‘me time’ may sometimes feel self-indulgent, but it really is vital if you are to thrive as a leader. It will also help provide opportunities for you to reflect on the following challenges.
2. Follow your passions
We all have a unique perspective on the things we find most fascinating and enjoyable in life. The big question for you personally is whether your work is focused on the ones that matter most to you. What are the subjects you find intriguing? What are the activities you find exhilarating? If you can concentrate on doing the things you have most passion for, your personal spirit will soon respond.
3. Apply your talents
One of the deepest intrinsic human motivations is a desire to improve ourselves. Self-esteem is closely related to the belief we have in our personal strengths and qualities. By finding ways to apply and stretch your own special talents, you will develop an invigorating sense that you are making the most of yourself and fulfilling all that you are capable of becoming as a person.
4. Live your values
As leaders, the impact we have on the people and the world around us is critical. To inspire and guide us, we need to be in touch with the values we believe in and care about most deeply. What are the principles you want to stand for and uphold? How are they shaping your strategic agenda? And just as importantly, how well are you embodying them in the way you behave as a leader?
5. Define your purpose
If leadership is about changing the world for the better, our purpose helps define how we intend to do it. A heartfelt sense of purpose is rooted in our passions, talents and values and provides us with something to live for and to work towards. Try capturing in a short and pithy phrase the difference you want to make as a leader. You’ll know you’ve cracked it when you discover an idea that drives you forward with a spirit of excitement, resolve and meaning.
6. Seek positive triggers
We have deliberately focused so far on the internal drivers of our inspiration, but there are a myriad of potential external triggers too. People you like and respect, challenges that stretch your capabilities, experiences that stimulate you to think differently. Seek out and embrace the many wonders of the world, particularly the ones you know are most likely to trigger a lift in your spirits.
7. Choose your mindsets
Our mindsets determine how we make sense of the world and our place within it. Inspiration tends to flourish when we are open, receptive and generous; when we look for possibilities and for learning about ourselves. By choosing the perspectives we bring to different situations, rather than letting them happen by default, we have a wonderful opportunity to shape our experience of life in more positive and uplifting ways.
Andy Bird is a leadership consultant and coach. He is author of The Inspired Leader.
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