How important is it to have inspirational leadership versus average leadership? The answer: Very important. According to Great Leadership, organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Which is why it should be mission-critical for businesses to focus on developing inspirational leaders to improve company culture, teamwork, performance and bottom-line results.
CEOs are focusing on leadership development opportunities for their workforce more than ever to maximize business performance and encourage their employees to reach their full potential. Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units. The same study found that managers with high talent are more likely to be engaged than their peers: According to Gallup: “More than half (54%) of managers with high talent are engaged, compared with 39% of managers with functioning talent and 27% of managers with limited talent.” With numbers like these it’s clear to see why it’s so important to foster proper leadership development, so those leaders can in turn inspire their employees, driving engagement and leading to better business outcomes.
So what exactly does it take to become an talented and inspirational leader? There have been countless books written on the subject of leadership, but the secret to being a strong leader is not in a chapter of any book, it is having a passion for leadership. Having the passion for leadership isn’t something you can just learn or pick up over time – it is built within your DNA and motivates you to get up every morning and make an impact. But there are some proven ways to bring out the leader in you.
After more than 20 years in leadership roles, I have identified what I believe are the five keys to unlocking the inspirational leader within:
1. Find your inspiration
Identify a role-model. For example, Bill Gates or Richard Branson, to name a couple current examples that instantly leap to mind. But they don’t necessarily have to be famous – think of any successful leader in your life who inspires you daily and aligns with the type of leader you want to be. Start exemplifying their leadership behaviors, whether it’s being more supportive, positive, fair, consistent, transparent, appreciative, or all of the above. It’s important to look up to someone – every leader had another leader to look up to at one point in their life.
2. Lead by example
This step sounds cliché, but is absolutely true. You should always lead by example and practice what you preach. No leader is effective or taken seriously if they can’t act on their own beliefs or practices. Leaders need to actually lead the way, versus just talking the talk (and not walking the walk).
3. Nurture others
Inspirational leaders take care of others, from hiring, training, support, development, and career pathing. Your team needs to feel the love when it comes to the full employee experience. It’s not always just about getting work done – it’s about feeling valued, appreciated and taken care of.
4. Empower your team
First and foremost, hire the right people with the right attitude and who are passionate about what they do. You want to build a team that meshes well together and shares the same values as the company, then train them well, starting with a strong, structured onboarding program. And of course, always provide a supportive, empowering environment for your team to thrive. Allow employees to learn from failures and celebrate their successes with frequent recognition and rewards.
5. Have fun
It’s as simple as that! Business is business, but you have to make time to play and have fun. It makes all the difference when you enjoy what you do – people can see when someone loves what they do and your positive energy will only benefit the workplace. Also, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, 70 percent of successful executives learn their most important leadership lessons through challenging assignments. Consider taking an out-of-the-box approach with challenging assignments to make them more fun.\
The key traits of inspirational leaders
Not only do these five keys result in better leadership, but they also have the side benefit of increasing employee engagement. Inspirational leaders take the time to inspire, support, listen and identify opportunities for their team. According to The Harvard Business Review, developing strengths of others can lead to 10-19 percent increase in sales and 14-29 percent increase in profit.
As an inspirational leader, you can effectively engage your employees and develop their strengths for more successful business results. If you act upon these five keys with genuine interest, honesty and sincerity, you will become a more inspirational leader, foster strong and meaningful relationships and improve your bottom-line.
With 51 percent of employees reporting that they are not happy at work (see our latest infographic), companies clearly need more inspirational leaders to boost employee engagement and retain top talent. Want to learn more about the current state of employee disengagement? Download our white paper, “The Greatness Gap: The State of Employee Disengagement.”