This review first ran in the Sept. 11 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
American Management Association
We won’t find inspiration in a corporate video where our leader seems to have been kidnapped to an undisclosed location and forced to read a list of demands while in a state of severe sleep deprivation.
Equally uninspiring is the mandatory and tightly scripted all-staff town hall where our leader inflicts death by PowerPoint with ruthless efficiency and then dares anyone to ask a question.
What will inspire us to work harder and do better is a leader who knows how to have conversations that count.
“If we want to have inspired companies, then we need inspirational leaders,” says Kristi Hedges, leadership coach and author of The Inspiration Code. “And that involves being the kind of leader who communicates in a way that creates the conditions for inspiration in others. It’s about making the right connection and letting the inspiration take off from there.”
Leaders create these conditions by being present, personal, passionate and purposeful in their conversations.
A leader’s present when she’s focused on the person in front of her. She’s not distracted or visibly stressed. She listens more than she talks. She gives the impression that there’s no one else she’d rather be with and nowhere else she’s rather be. “For leaders, presence is a blinking red light that signifies importance. Being fully present at key times has a motivational impact. When a leader actually pays real attention to us, it feels great. We feel special. The capacity to inspire is heightened.”
Authenticity also plays a key role in building connections. “Your listener looks to you first to see how much you care and this is what shapes how much he will care,” says Hedges. “If you want to move behavior or shape thinking, you need to get personal and stay personal. We’re not inspired by fakes, frauds, blowhards, blusterers or even those who play it too close to the vest. We need to see the real deal.”
Along with being present and getting personal, leaders need to be passionate if they want an inspired effort from us. “People who are passionate enthusiasts for what they do create passion in others. Passion is optimistic, exciting, bold and captivating. Passion has a fiery drive to it, propelling forward momentum. People with passion show conviction. We know where they stand. They get things done.”
And finally, inspiring leaders have purposeful conversations. We need to be reminded that our day-to-day work contributes to the continued success of our organization. “When we feel as though we’re running in circles, or spiraling downward, work is somewhere between boring and soul crushing. We’re counting the hours (or if nearing retirement, years) until we’re free.”
What a leader does will be as important as what they say. Hedges says a leader must show and model what it means to be a purpose-driven leader and live a purpose-driven life. “If others can’t see the purpose that ignites you, then they won’t likely be convinced that you can inspire anyone else. When it comes to purpose, you’ve got to wear it to share it.”
As Hedges reminds us, no one goes home after work and says they had a great day because they were influenced. Bull all of us would love to say that we were inspired.
Hedges shows leaders how to improve the odds of that happening with proven strategies for being more present, personal, passionate and purposeful in their conversations.
@jayrobb serves as director of communications at Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.