Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
If true, it follows that the most inspiring leaders will be those who help others become what they could be. Whether you lead a formal work team or simply seek to inspire others as you go, there are five tools you can hold up to be a more inspiring leader:
- A mirror. To truly inspire another you need a mirror; not for self-reflection, but to hold up for another. Often we are oblivious to our gifts and talents. We’ve never been anyone else, so whatever talent we have feels normal, even if it’s exceptional. As a result, far too many of us think we have little to offer. But you can inspire another by holding up a mirror and reflecting back to them what you see in them. Comment on their gifts, the way they light-up when they talk about certain topics, and the help they’ve been to others. Make your’s the best mirror they’ll look into.
- A microphone. Few of us have voices that travel very far. Our ideas, when we’re bold enough to present them, may only be heard by our family and friends—and then they may be challenged or are quickly forgotten. When you use your network and influence to help spread their ideas, however, you’ve held up a microphone for their work. That simple and selfless act is so uncommon that they’ll remember you for it and perhaps you may find others more willing to hold microphones for you as well.
- A machete. Every worthwhile pursuit is replete with challenges. They can grow as dense as the Amazon forest. You’re familiar with them, perhaps even exhausted from wielding the machete at your own underbrush of challenges. As a leader, however, you can inspire someone by using your power and influence to remove their obstacles. Maybe you could hold up your machete for someone today and clear a forest of confusion by helping them think through their options. Or maybe you could wield your machete to lobby for resources or to connect them to someone in your network. You have a sharp machete. Use it to cut a clearing for others too.
- A model. There are far too many examples of mediocrity amongst us. Or so it seems. Those that stand out seem to have a celebrity status that puts them out of reach for most of us to profit from. Yet, when you adopt an intentionality to practice the excellence you’ve seen in those around you, you hold up a model for others to follow and be inspired by. Who do you know that exemplifies a trait so well you might tell their story to inspire another?
- A medal. Achievement is transient. No sooner does one accomplish a task and attention is turned to the next thing. Sales people know this well. “What have you done for me lately?” echoes after every transaction. Inspiring leaders know the power of celebration and they practice it. They may not hand out a real medal, but they take time to reward achievement, even their own.
Pull out these tools you already have and use them. Everyday. They’ll make you the kind of leader I’d be inspired to follow.
What are some others things you can hold up to inspire another?