An inspirational leader has the power to influence and enlist others. People want to follow them, and so their leadership appears completely natural.
The most effective leaders are passionate about their vision and know how to create that same passion in others. James Kousez and Barry Posner have researched highly effective leaders in various roles. They have identified a common thread. Leaders who effectively communicate their vision generate higher levels of “satisfaction, motivation, commitment, loyalty, team spirit, productivity, and profitability.” It doesn’t matter whether this is to only one person or to a thousand. Learning to be an inspirational leader and engage others in your goals can pay off big!
Kousez and Posner found that a successful inspirational leader excels in two primary areas. First, they are good at appealing to common ideals. Then, they know how to animate that vision once it has been developed.
Want to become a more inspirational leader yourself? Here are a few practical tips.
Appeal to Common Ideals.
Visions add a sense of meaning and purpose to our lives. They connect us to something greater than ourselves. Here’s how to make your vision inspiring to others.
1) Connect to what’s meaningful to others. It’s not enough to force your own vision onto another person. You have to identify what matters to them and show them how that intersects with your ideals. People need to know that the work they do matters. However, it has to matter in a way that has significance to them personally. It’s not enough if it matters only to the organization.
2) Take pride in being unique. Doing the same thing as everyone else is just not very exciting. Identify what makes you (or your product or service) unique. Maximize that element. The the world is growing smaller because of technology. Therefore, uniqueness is becoming an increasingly valuable commodity.
3) Align your dream with the people’s dream. Finding common ground, utilizing imagery everyone can relate to, including as wide a variety of people as possible, and referencing commonly held values, traditions, or authorities are good ways to create alignment. Personal conviction can also help create this link.
Animate the Vision
Once a link has been created between your vision and the personal and communal visions of the individuals you are trying to lead, the next step is to bring that vision to life. According to Kouzes and Posner, most people see themselves as uninspiring. However, everyone is enthusiastic and expressive about something, and these are the exact characteristics needed to make a vision seem real to others. Here are some other ways to do that:
1) Use symbolic language. Symbolic language captivates people’s imaginations and makes them feel special. It helps portray the meaning behind the vision in a way that people can really connect with and understand.
2) Paint images of the future. This capitalizes on the hopes and dreams of those you are trying to lead. Make these images concrete, things people can readily visualize.
3) Practice positive communication. Foster optimism and an ability to look on the bright side. When things become discouraging, it is the leader’s job to keep the hope that motivates others alive.
4) Express your emotions. Research has proven that people who are more animated are seen as more charismatic, and that information delivered with emotion is more memorable. Technology can be leveraged here, such as music chosen for YouTube presentations. Entertainment value counts.
5) Speak from the heart. If you don’t really believe in what you are selling, no one else will either. Nothing else matters if you aren’t sincere.
Kouzes and Posner offer one final piece of advice: practice, practice, practice. Try out your ideas and your presentations on friends, rewrite and revise your proposals, hone the details your vision. Be ready to inspire when the opportunity arises!
(based on Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z. (2010). Enlist others: attract people to common purposes. In J.L. Perry (Ed.) The Jossey-Bass reader on non-profit and public leadership, pp 346-370. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.)