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In the final part of our ‘What is Leadership?‘ series, we look at what it takes to inspire action from your team.
For many leaders, this can be particularly daunting. You’ve worked hard to ensure the mechanics are all in place for your team to achieve great things, but now you’ve got to somehow communicate the vision and convince them it’s a journey they should want to go on. Just as a brand new sport’s car promises an exciting journey, without the key to start the ignition and light the spark, you’re going nowhere.
So what can leaders do to motivate their team, inspire action and help them realise their collective potential?
Recently I took part in a webinar, which asked attendees to put forward their business role models and the name which came out top was Richard Branson. Branson is truly inspirational – evidence that the rags to riches tale can come true (if you’re prepared to work hard and not let failures set you back). What Branson has been particularly successful with is creating a brand. In Virgin he created something that we all aspire to. From an employee perspective, Virgin is enticing – it looks like the kind of team you’d want to be part of; innovative, fun, at the top of their game and going places, the air hostesses on their flights make us want to re-train as cabin crew! Creating a brand identity and culture for your team is critical if you want to inspire a team into action and engage them on the journey. You have to make them feel part of something great; part of the in-crowd. You need to create the team that everybody wants to join and nobody wants to leave. To do this, empowerment is critical. Earlier on this blog series we explored the impact of empowerment on engagement and effectiveness. Giving people freedom and responsibility makes them feel valued, trusted, an important part of the team, but it takes more than just empowerment, a leader must also:
Creating a team that everybody wants to be part of requires you to be crystal clear on what the vision and goals are for the team and how they’re going to achieve them. Bill Gates once said that “Vision without execution is daydreaming”, coming up with a vision is easy, putting it into action, now that’s the hard bit. Many leaders ‘lose’ their teams because they think it is enough just to provide a fantastic vision of where you want to be. No-one is likely to disagree that your fantastic vision sounds like a great place for the team to be. But the truth is, however exciting and enticing that vision might be, your team will never go on the journey with you if you haven’t made it clear how that vision can be realised and this is a big difference between those leaders capable of inspiring real action and success and those who simply churn out a new vision every 6-12 months (once everybody’s just about forgotten about the last vision that never went anywhere). Outstanding leaders use goals to achieve their vision, they break down the vision into clearly defined, accountable actions and they put in place systems to monitor and evaluate progress, whilst all the time maintaining focus on the end vision.
A leader who does not genuinely believe in and get excited by the journey they’re taking their team on, cannot hope to inspire a team into action and achieve success (unless you have the acting ability of Daniel Day Lewis!). If you think back to the countless presentations, talks, pitches you’ve had to sit through over the years, there’ll be only a handful that you can actually remember – thank goodness! (Bloopers and blunders aside) the ones you remember will most likely be the ones in which the presenter conveyed genuine passion for their subject, where their absolute belief in what they were discussing was evident in their use of words, their body language and their subsequent actions. To inspire a team, a leader needs this level of passion, faking it is unlikely to cut it, your lack of commitment will be evident in your follow through. For leaders struggling with a conflict between their own values and those of the organisation, this is near impossible. Leaders in this position should look to coaching as a way to resolve these challenges. So, if you want your team to feel as excited as you do – tell them. Share your passion.
This blog series began by asking the question ‘What is leadership?’, on the way, we’ve explored the role that Empowerment, Coaching, Accountability and Emotional Intelligence all have to play in effective leadership. Inspiring the vision is the last piece of the puzzle – the thing that sets the ball in motion and sets your team on the path to outstanding performance.