Becoming an Inspirational Leader

April 20 2021, by Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

The early settlers, have always amazed and inspired me. These pioneers had the determination to face extreme hardships building homes and communities out of barren land. I have often wondered if I would have had the same courage they demonstrated.

Authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner said: “Leaders are pioneers – people who are willing to step out into the unknown … they are willing to take risks, innovate and experiment to find new and better ways of doing things.”

John Maxwell said that good leaders forge ahead, break ground and make mistakes

Things Inspirational Leaders Do:

  1. Love the people they lead

In the book “The Inspirational Leader” author Gifford Thomas said: “As a leader, you have an incredible opportunity to change someone’s life every single day.”

Stop and think about that for a minute. The power to change someone’s life comes through small acts of kindness.

  • Saying hello
  • Saying thank you
  • Remembering their name. It is not always easy to remember everyone’s name, and this is a skill that we can all practice.
  • Ask how they are doing, wait, and listen to the answer.
  • Send a birthday card to an employee’s child(ren).
  • Ask how their parents/family are.
  • Send a thank you card to their parents for raising an exceptional person.

My family lives out of the country and my mother could visit once every couple of years. I remember one supervisor who had the rare opportunity to met my mother, they told her that they just loved having me as a member of their team. And continued to highlight my strengths. These kind words not only meant a lot to me but can you imagine how it made my mom feel?

2. Lead their team without fear or intimidation

Have you ever had the experience where you were afraid to make a decision or try something new for fear of being reprimanded?  Leadership and title are not the same things. A person can have the title of supervisor and not be a leader. Some bosses or supervisors are focused only on the output, the productivity and fail to encourage their team members to take risks, solve problems and try new things. I had one experience where the ‘leaders’ said they wanted innovation, but when new ideas were presented, they turned them all down. This type of supervising demoralizes the team, employees will stop contributing and they will eventually seek other jobs

3. Build a Servant Based culture

Leadership is service-based. Good leaders are more concerned for their people than they are for themselves. Leadership is about the people. The best part is that you do not need the title to be a leader. Let me repeat that, you do not need the title of supervisor or boss to be a leader.

Servant-based leadership is the person who looks out for everyone else first. They recognize and acknowledge that everyone contributes to the outcome and success of the organization. Many leadership books I have read highlight the Marines and how the officers always eat last. The example they set by this gesture is that their needs are not more important than a team member’s needs.

4.     Empower their team.

It takes time to coach and mentor your team. John Maxwell said that “people development is more than just teaching. It’s transforming”. The true test of leadership is not what happens when you are there, but what happens when you are not there.

When I lived in North Dakota, we had spent months planning a huge community fall festival. An unexpected personal emergency arose and I could not be there. My team meet challenges, solved problems, and successfully pulled off the event. As a leader when you empower your team to make decisions, take risks, and own those decisions they gain confidence and unite together to achieve the goals.

5.      Lifelong Learners.

Good leaders are constantly learning. They recognize that they do not know it all and surround themselves with people smarter than them.

 To become an inspirational leader, you need to be a servant-based leader. You need your focus to be on the people, invest time in them, love them, and allow them the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from those experiences.