Inspirational leadership: This you can’t pretend

Admiration. Emulation. Stories told about great challenge, well-met.

Does your leadership inspire this type of respect?

It can.

Leadership that inspires respect is one of the top ten characteristics of great leaders.

Not everyone wants the pressure and responsibility of a high-profile leadership role.

Leadership brings a very bright spotlight

If you’re in a leadership position, people watch you very closely to see if you mean what you say, and if you hold yourself to the same standards you hold others to.

What your employees or team members discover about your honesty and integrity has a lot to do with their decision about whether or not to throw their full effort and loyalty your way.

Imagine, for example, a leader who says he values customer input.

Now let’s say he or she gets a rigorous complaint from a very frustrated customer about the failure of the company’s flagship product or service.

What’s their next action?

Does this leader:

1. Use the complaint for positive action, perhaps leading to process improvements that make the product better, reducing rework and the need for customer relationship repair?

If this leader views customer complaints as valuable – customer research that was not sought, but invaluable information which the company now has and can use to good effect – this response is a winning one.

2. Or does the leader ignore it, laugh it off, or in other ways try to get rid of the feedback? Or worse, does the leader belittle the customer who made the complaint, and do so mockingly, in front of employees?

That action, however fleeting, speaks volumes in a very negative sense.

And it emboldens others in the company to act in an equally disrespectful way toward customers, and perhaps each other, as well.

Sooner or later, this insidious behavior is likely to drive customers away.

Leaders who inspire respect set high standards

Their actions are inspiring in many ways. For example, they: 

1. Make tough calls with an eye to the future, as well to the demands of the moment.

2. Know their values – what they stand for and what they are against.

They make decisions and take actions based on their values and those of their company or team.

3. Set high standards and lead by meeting those standards themselves.

Leaders who inspire others don’t just assert or expect certain actions from others. They also act in ways that create positive examples for others to follow.

4. Set clear boundaries for what’s acceptable behavior and what’s out of bounds.

5. Treat others, both inside and outside the company, with respect.

6. Incite positive, powerful action. Especially during difficult times, they shine in this aspect of leadership.

Top leaders can shift a team’s focus from “We can’t,” “I’m afraid,” or “This isn’t really important,” to “We can, we will, here’s why it’s important,” and “Here’s how we’ll get things done. Let’s get moving.”

7. Expect success, and create the work systems and support that make it possible, no matter what they’re faced with at the moment.

8. Communicate well. They seek, process, and provide information effectively.

Being an inspiration to others is not something that a leader, or anyone, can “fake,” dictate, or add at the last minute, almost as an afterthought.