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A Good and Profitable Way to Lead

The more you trust, the more you earn

The Role of Leadership

Leadership positions come with an overwhelming range of responsibilities: strategic alignment, role structuring, compensation decisions, product and process management, etc. And these duties sit on top of individual contributor responsibilities. All of this busyness is overwhelming, and distracts from the true purpose and first responsibility of leadership: to make others better.

I call this the "first responsibility," because the way that leaders treat others has more impact on organizational outcomes than firm strategy, culture, or processes. Leadership behavior (especially from middle management) is the primary driver of engagement in a company, and engagement is the primary driver of performance.

Fortunately, there are proven methods of leadership that can help you do this job well. We call this set of behaviors "inspired leadership".

Defining Inspired Leadership

Inspired leadership derives from the fundamental belief that other people are decent, capable, and internally motivated. Inspired leadership is not simply having this belief; it is acting on this belief in your interactions with others.

There are specific actions associated with inspired leadership that go far beyond "optimism" or "being nice". Oftentimes, we who consider ourselves positive and inspiring fail to live up to our beliefs:

People behave how they're treated. Treat them well.

These are the actions of empowerment, and the actions of true leadership. In a modern, knowledge-based organization, there is no effective alternative.

Inspired Leadership Pays Off

Inspired leadership sounds easy and gentle and, for this reason, is appealing to many and repulsive to others. Two points... First, In many cases, the behaviors of inspired leadership are anything but easy and gentle (e.g. set high standards, tell hard truths, provide accountability). Second, regardless of what we may think of it, inspired leadership works. Extensive research has shown that these specific behaviors:

(1) improve organizational outcomes: financial performance, productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction improve significantly when organizations are exposed to inspired leadership behaviors (source).

(2) improve individual employee outcomes: an analysis of over 500 empirical studies reported that inspired behavior improves employee motivation, creativity, turnover, and health (source).

Inspired leadership behavior literally helps people live longer, marriages last longer, and employees work longer and smarter (source - p. 133).

Inspired leadership sources its power from "relational energy," the human ability to transfer mental and physical fortitude to those around us; and inspired leadership sources its power from intrinsic motivation, our own internal source of energy that is smarter, more creative, and more persistent than an externalized punishment/rewards system (a societal worshipping of "grit" without an understanding of human motivation is a recipe for a generation of high attrition and burnout).

But... Inspired Leadership is Hard

Inspired leadership sounds great in theory, but then we move into the real world and things get hard. What tends to go wrong?

(1) We fall victim to our selfishness; we weight our own experiences and opinions more highly than others. We'd rather be right than achieve our goals, so we hold ourselves and others back.

(2) We get scared, so we dismiss inspired leadership as impractical idealism and a mistake-prone recipe for disaster. When we're scared, we tend to seek power and control rather than offering empowerment.

(3) And lastly, we simply don't feel good. When we don't take care of ourselves and are not in touch with who we really are, it's much harder to support others.

We all default to these modes at times. There are moments we embody inspired leadership and moments we do not. This is not a personality trait - it is a learned skill. The more we practice, the more we feel its power, learning the power that we possess when we choose to be a source of light for others.

Learning inspired leadership is therefore the journey of discovering that we can both empower ourselves and empower others. That trust should be given, not earned. And that helping others prosper doesn't just feel good, it makes good business sense.

If you're interested in embedding inspired leadership practices across your organization, reach out to to learn more about our Leadership Development Program.


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