What is the difference between a manager and a leader?
I believe that true leaders are inspirational. Leaders are also not necessarily managers. You can lead in many walks of life – whether in a business setting, a family or a friendship circle. Inspirational leadership can be demonstrated by a team member who exerts a positive influence over their colleagues.
I once had a boss who radiated inspirational leadership by showing dedication and commitment to his role and his team. He challenged us to be the best we could be. He gave us plenty of freedom to achieve our objectives however we saw fit.
In stark contrast, I once worked for a boss that came in late, left early and shared none of the workloads even when her team was overloaded. She used to say, “Why have a dog and bark yourself?”. I eventually left the organisation in considerable measure due to the way she managed the team.
What is different about inspirational leadership?
1. They have a vision – their focus is broad, ‘big picture’ orientated and strategic
Google is renowned for its innovative management methods. They have a set of rules -“Google’s Rules – 8 Good Behaviours” (As quoted in this article), and this is rule no. 7 :
- Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
- Even amid turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy
- Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it
None of the above is possible if a manager gets bogged down in minute details rather than maintaining a big-picture view.
2. Empowerment – coaching, training, support
In his article entitled “Inspirational Leadership: How Top Leaders Inspire Teams to Greatness”, James H. Killian, PhD cites Dr Stephen Covey, author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Covey used to say that with people, ‘slow is fast and fast is slow.’ Which is so counter to the fundamental paradox that exists within leaders. To be successful, most need to stop doing the very things that got them into a leadership position in the first place. Giving colleagues and direct reports more time to contribute may seem like a slower process, but it ultimately creates a team, performance, and accountability culture. A leader who is eager to let others contribute but still keeps an eye on results instils a sense of trust and respect. But it is the two sides of this equation that must be equally leveraged—inspiring others and holding them accountable for results.
Inspirational leaders provide their teams with the required coaching, training, and support to make their own decisions, achieve their objectives and learn along the way so they can keep on improving and become inspirational leaders of the future.
3. Responsibility, Accountability & Trust
In the extract above, Covey, quoted by Killian, mentions that empowering teams instils a sense of trust and respect and that this also means holding others accountable for their results.
Being held accountable, having responsibility and being trusted with important tasks and decisions is scary but ultimately the only way to learn and grow. Without accountability, being given responsibility is mere window-dressing.
4. Communicate and embody purpose & vision
Inspirational leaders do more than ‘talk the talk’; and they ‘walk the walk’, too. They embody their purpose and vision. Also, lead by example. And they communicate their vision and purpose to the people they lead. If you don’t know and understand your leader’s purpose, how can you follow that lead and help them achieve their vision?
5. Make time – listen
According to Forbes.com, 85% of what we learn, we learn through listening. To be an inspirational leader, therefore, it is of paramount importance to listen to keep learning. But even more importantly, employees who know their ideas, suggestions, and concerns will be heard to feel more valued and are more likely to give 100% to the business.
Taking this outside the business context for a moment, think about the people in your life that you care about your friends and family. How do you feel if you don’t believe they are listening to you? How do you feel when you know they are listening? Whether we’re at work or play, we are human beings, and our emotional state has a significant impact on our performance. By listening, inspirational leaders make their reports and colleagues feel valued.
6. Take blame & give credit
Inspirational leaders give credit where it is due and recognise that their achievements are rarely theirs alone. Their achievements are due at least as much to the efforts of the teams and individuals they lead as they are to their leadership qualities. Equally, when things go wrong, it is rarely down to just one individual or group. Genuinely inspirational leaders will look at their responsibilities in events that went wrong and won’t be afraid to shoulder the blame. Leadership can bring many rewards, but inspirational leaders are also prepared to carry the risks and burdens that their position entails.
7. Innovate/think outside the box
Innovation – technological and ideological – is essential to progress. Inspirational leaders understand this and are prone to ‘thinking outside the box and encouraging creative and innovative thinking amongst those they lead. Look at Richard Branson, for example, but also Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King. All thought/think differently than everyone around them. They go against the grain. Badged as thought leaders that take action and inspire others to help them achieve their vision.
Inspirational leadership is essential to business success. As Greg Savage points out in his article, “People don’t leave companies, they leave Leaders’; when employees leave, it’s not “the company” they blame. It’s not the location, the team, the database or the air-conditioning. It’s the leadership!
If you don’t inspire your teams to achieve greatness, you’re not a leader. You’re a manager, at best.
Frederika Roberts – The Happiness Speaker
Inspiring you to achieve more success through the application of positive psychology principles.
Frederika Roberts is an ordinary person who has experienced extraordinary events. In business, she has learnt at least as much from her mistakes as from the things she got right. Her personal life has been a roller-coaster of emotions, yet Frederika feels exceptionally lucky and describes herself as ‘fundamentally happy’. Now she shares her poignant, emotional story and her ‘Recipe for Happiness’ with audiences and readers to help them be happier, more resilient and more successful at achieving their goals.
Born in Italy, of dual Italian and German nationality, Frederika moved to Luxembourg with her parents when she was two years old. She moved to the UK in 1990 to study at the University of Bradford, where she met her husband. After obtaining her BSc(Hons) in Business and Management, Frederika undertook post-graduate studies in education and became a qualified teacher. Over the years, she has worked in education, held customer services and sales roles and worked in recruitment. She has set up and run her own businesses, managed teams and worked for herself.
Frederika is a professional speaker, the Author of ‘Recipe for Happiness’ and a coach & trainer. She is a Professional Member of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) of the UK & Ireland and is joint Vice-President of its Yorkshire region.