Inspiration should be commonplace in leadership.
Too often I hear leaders say that they have difficulty thinking of themselves as inspiring. Humility is a good thing––but we shouldn’t let humility impede our true potential or keep us from one of our most powerful leadership attributes.
When I dig into the issue a little deeper the problem is often that people think of inspiration in grandiose terms. If I ask for an example of someone who has inspired you, you might offer the story of some great historic leader, the inspirational speaker or someone who has done something heroic. You might talk about the top performer in a particular field or someone whose talents far exceed your own.
Those people can be inspirational for sure. But we are also inspired by small, commonplace deeds every day––and often by people who are quite ordinary.
One of the greatest inspirations in my life is my friend Dave Melville. You’ll be hearing a lot about Dave soon as he rolls out his fantastic new program, “Thank God It’s Monday!” But Dave has inspired me over the years as an ordinary person who has never sought recognition or earned celebrity for his inspirational actions.
First of all, Dave is an incredibly confident and optimistic person. In moments when I was struggling, the simple way he approaches challenges with an expectation of success has inspired me to keep fighting the fight many times.
He is also someone who is tremendously patient, open-minded and caring. When I find myself losing patience with someone, it is often Dave’s example that inspires me to take a deep breath and give that person my full attention.
I could go on and on, but the point is that Dave is an ordinary person. The things he does that inspire me and others would be considered quite ordinary by most people’s standards, yet his impact on my life has been and continues to be enormous.
We each have the power to inspire. In fact, while it is one of our most powerful abilities, it is also the most ordinary. And the best way to manifest this ability is to simply “lead by example.”
Everything you do in life and in your role as a leader can serve as great inspiration to others. And sometimes the smallest action or gesture can be the most meaningful.
As a leader, this effect is amplified. Even just a few words of encouragement or recognition can inspire someone to new levels of performance. Of course, you don’t always notice it at the time. The subject of your encouragement might not even notice the impact in that moment––but might realize later that this was a deeply inspiring gesture.
The opposite is also true. Even the most seemingly insignificant words or actions can be quite discouraging and destructive. It is our responsibility as leaders to understand that our words and deeds are amplified in the hearts and minds of the people who trust in our leadership.
One of my favorite quotes from Lao Tzu, and I share it all the time is this:
“When the people are not in awe of your majesty, then great majesty has been achieved.”
I find many layers of meaning in this simple statement, but one of the most useful applications to me is the simple idea that there is tremendous power in ordinary, every day words and actions. When your actions are not drawing attention and accolades, this may just be when you are inspiring others the most.
Inspiration is not for the chosen few. Inspiration is a tool we all have at our disposal every single day––every single moment.
“Be confident yet humble. Lead by example.”
Whether you notice it or not at the time––your example WILL inspire!