Thursday, January 22, 2015

Inspiration Does not Have to Come From Lofty Rhetoric

Woodrow Wilson believed the role of a leader was not to dictate but to inspire. I heartily agree, but decades of professional experience have taught me that I cannot inspire people with grandiose speech like Wilson and countless other leaders (Lincoln, King, and Kennedy come to mind). I know my weaknesses, and one such area in which I don't shine is the ability to persuade people with halftime locker room-like speeches. How then have I managed to inspire those around me?

My three keys to inspiring others have become: 1. Modeling the expectations to which I hold my subordinates. I work hard to "walk" the talk day in, day out. 2. Empowering my constituents to help me make the important decisions. 3. Showing my subordinates that I am human, have the same problems in personal and professional life, and am willing to acknowledge my mistakes.

Those who take to this form of inspiration invest themselves in what's good for the organization. I'll bet the majority of leaders don't have the eloquence and force of an oratory giant, but there are no prerequisites to having the willingness to role model, empower, and self-reflect.

This post is part of my "Leadership Lessons From American Presidents" series.

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