Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few things that help define the concept of an inspirational leader.
This election year is making it difficult for many to see inspiration in their potential leaders. Distrust, blatant lying, and deeply questionable morals are making people wonder if they will be able to give the proper respect to the future leader of the United States, whoever that ends up being.
It even has us wondering: how do we define inspirational leader?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a great and inspirational leader, as everyone has a different idea as to what that is and which traits most fit that description.
There are leaders in many walks of life: community leaders, religious leaders, educational leaders, business leaders, even parents, among countless others. Each type of leader has something that makes them unique. But, a consensus of specific qualities and characteristics need to exist in those we want to label as inspirational and look up to.
They should be positive and trustworthy.
Positivity is essential to being inspirational. People tend to gravitate toward positive individuals in general, so it makes sense that a leader should be positive by nature. Positive people exude confidence and are seen as trustworthy.
They seek solutions instead of dwelling on problems, and view challenges as an opportunity to grow. When there are difficult situations within an organization or business, people need someone positive who they can trust to look to ease their anxieties and help them feel safe.
In a short but insightful Ted Talk, leadership expert Simon Sinek talks about good leaders making those around them feel safe. He mentions a business that saw a huge hit, and they could no longer afford their workforce. When coming up with a solution, the one thing the CEO refused to do was lay people off, and he found a different solution in company-wide furloughs.
The CEO said he counted hearts, not heads, and that it was better for everyone in the company to suffer a little, than for anyone to suffer a lot. This show of positive leadership and caring in the face of a huge financial challenge resulted in trust and positive compliance by everyone in the company.
The employees felt safe and secure, and even banded together to trade furlough amounts for those who could afford it. Positive leadership results in a positive following.
They should listen and communicate well.
A great leader can not only communicate their ideas and vision to to others, but are also humble enough to listen to others and collaborate ideas. When someone takes the time and effort to truly listen to the people they are working with, they can gain new perspectives and use that knowledge to make changes and innovations.
Just as important as the ability to listen is the ability to communicate. Communication is one of the best tools for inspiring people. If a leader can use their words to inspire and empower people, they are sure to have people who support and follow them.
According to the Harvard Business Review, leadership is a conversation. There should always be an open dialogue between members of an organization, especially with the leadership.
Leaders who openly communicate with their team through personal conversation and listening as well as through business talk get a sense of intimacy, which is followed by genuine trust. People often can’t be inspired by those they feel they cannot trust, and open communication is a big part of inspiration.
They are passionate, and they have a clear vision for the future.
No one has ever founded a successful business or organization without having passion for their ideas. A good idea will go nowhere without a passionate leader, and will die with every other passing daydream. As well as passion, a clear vision for an idea is necessary for its success and future.
One inspiring leader whose passion and vision is clear in his work is Arizona State University president Michael Crow. In his 14-plus years as the university president, he has established a number of programs focused on making higher education more accessible to more people, especially non-traditional students.
ASU has one of the most extensive online schooling programs, offering over a hundred fully online degrees, including a large selection of undergraduate and master’s degrees, as well as online certificates.
Crow has also put a lot of focus on making sure freshmen have a positive first-year experience, which has resulted in a 86 percent freshman retention rate. His vision has put ASU on the map as leading school in higher education innovation, and who knows what more he can accomplish in the years to come.
They are grateful to their team
As the saying goes, no man is an island. The same goes for anyone in a leadership position—they didn’t get there alone. A great and inspirational leaders know that their teams are the key to success.
Teams offer diverse support and a combination of skills coming together for a common goal. People gathering together with a purpose can accomplish so much. With all of the above qualities of inspirational leaders, there is still no leader if there is no organization to lead.
It doesn’t have to be a huge company or movement, it just has to be a group of people working for a common cause. Yes, leaders are important in their own right, but a great leader knows they are nothing without their team.
Inspiration can come from many sources, and we want to look to people in leadership positions to find it. Look for inspirational leaders in your everyday life. While our political leadership is looking pretty bleak right now, know there are still leaders in your life who can inspire you. If you are in a leadership position, make sure to be someone who others can look up to and trust.
To quote Simon Sinek, “leadership is a choice. It is not a rank.” Being in a position of authority doesn’t make you a great leader. True leaders inspire.