I was recently involved in a research project asking me to submit my views on leadership development. The following is the first in a series of five questions and corresponding answers. I found the exercise to be extremely useful and encourage you to come up with your own answers to these questions. It will help you clarify your personal approach to leadership.
1. How do you inspire and motivate others when you lead?
In a nutshell: communicate the mission and vision of the organization and then start removing obstacles so people can get there. My feeling is that people are naturally motivated to do great work. How many people get up in the morning and say to themselves, “I’m going to deliberately try to do mediocre work today?” I don’t think it works that way (assuming people are in a field they are passionate about). Most people start with the intention of delivering great work and making a difference, but they encounter obstacles that prevent them from achieving real success. My job as a leader is to inspire people with a clear vision of the future and then start removing obstacles and getting out of their way.
Leaders must communicate the mission and vision of the organization. It is a message that needs to be delivered over and over again. Ideally, both the mission and the vision should impact people at an emotional level. For example, at my company, RealTime Performance, one way to look at the mission is to say that we build and deliver leadership assessment and development tools. But that doesn’t resonate emotionally with people. So we define our mission in a way that inspires and motivates. Our mission at RealTime Performance is to elevate the quality of leadership globally. We want to make better leaders and positively impact the globe. There are a lot of bad leaders out there (these are the obstacles I was referring to earlier), and the cumulative effect of this poor leadership is a negative impact on our organizations and the economy. When we talk about RealTime Performance in this way we tap into the natural inspiration and passion that people have to improve the world around them.
If you want to learn more about this approach to inspiring and leading others, here are the best books I’ve encountered on this subject.