Are You an Inspirational Leader?
The lights were on but the office seemed dark. As I took a seat in the office I probably looked like I didn’t want to be there. Frankly, that’s because I didn’t want to be there. My attitude wasn’t helped by the soft hum and the faint, indescribable odor of the cubicle jungle that signified the end of life as I knew it. My new boss and I had just sat down in his office for that dreaded “welcome” discussion.
Just a few weeks before I had been comfortably settled into one of the best jobs of my career when the phone rang. The voice on the other end informed me that I was to move to a staff position halfway across the country and they wanted me there yesterday. Apparently, I was the only person in this organization of over 250,000 who could do this particular job. I didn’t believe that and I could tell the voice on the other end of the line didn’t really believe it either. But, there were only two options; the other involving the unemployment office.
And so, my bad attitude and I sat awaiting the inevitable “this is going to be great” pep talk.
The boss surprised me by first recognizing that I didn’t want to be there and then telling how he had been brought there the same way: pulled from a job he had worked his whole career for. He continued by making it clear that how either of us got there was water under the bridge and what mattered now was that there was important work to do and a couple of very serious problems to solve.
I entered that office hating the world but left inspired to take on these new challenges.
What was so inspirational?
First, the boss didn’t try to pump me up with the normal platitudes about how great this would be and how wonderful I must be to have been chosen. Instead he was brutally honest about the situation.
Next, he explained his own personal leadership philosophy: what he expected, his values, and even a couple of pet peeves. His leadership philosophy included something else that surprised me. He admitted he was not very knowledgeable about my area of responsibility. He expected me to take care of my area, keep him informed, and help him learn along the way.
Is inspiring people one of your leadership skills? You may not have given it a lot of thought but you should. There is much discussion these days about employee engagement and inspirational leadership is part of that.
Being an inspirational leader isn’t that difficult. Notice some of the things my boss did that inspired me. He learned a little about me. He had looked at my work record and, as I discovered later, even talked to a former supervisor. A little bit of research led him to understand how to approach me. He knew that even if I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t shrink from a challenge.
He empathized with me but didn’t let me lose sight of the mission.
He communicated in a professional manner showing he respected my abilities and potential. Yes, he was the boss, but he didn’t feel the need to dwell on something that was already clear.
He admitted his own knowledge gaps and asked for help. It is inspirational when the boss does that.
Throughout my time there, my boss did not waiver from his leadership philosophy and I learned much from his considerable leadership skills. In fact, when I had the opportunity to lead a large organization, his example was always with me.
I don’t know if I was as inspirational as him, but I know his example made me a better leader. Have you wished for an inspirational leader like that? More importantly, are you an inspirational leader?