Would people call you an inspiration? Or are you bored or boring? When do you inspire with your charisma and passion or when might you go “over the top”?
If I were to ask you how inspiring you are as a leader, how might you respond? And how might those you lead respond? What makes us inspiring? How do we inspire and why would we want to be inspiring? What role does inspiration play in differentiating good from poor leadership? What role does our passion play in inspiration and where is the border line between passion and obsession?
Being an inspiration
I have seen inspiration defined as: stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity; something exalting; the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially something creative or meaningful.
I found passion defined as: powerful, intense or even overwhelming emotion; boundless enthusiasm.
And I saw obsession defined as: a compulsive, persistent preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or often unreasonable idea or emotion.
In our modern day and very Managing Spin related use of language these words, like “awesome” and “passion” are often overused, if not abused to the point that our eyes glaze over when we hear them, right? How often do you hear people saying they are passionate about something, but in the absence of any feeling or enthusiasm?
Do You Have A Purpose, Or Do You Just Show Up?
So let’s try and find a starting perspective on this topic. Assuming a productive engagement of some kind, when you started your day today, did you “just show up” wondering what lay in store for the day ahead? Perhaps allowing your email inbox to determine or even dictate what you focused on today? You know, as in “ho-hum; just another day…”
Or did you arrive with a purpose and with enthusiasm, knowing exactly why you were there and what you wanted to have achieved by the end of the day? You know, as part of a planned purpose; something that inspired you and drove you and those around you to want to excel in and deliver?
How Are You Labelled?
What are you known for? What do you stand for? When people hear your name what do they think of, or what do they associate it with? Are you seen as the driver of outcomes; as the one with the ideas and the energy and the enthusiasm to get things done? Things that are meaningful and serve a purpose? Things that are part of a bigger picture; a plan that has people enthusiastically involved to want to make happen?
Or might they struggle to come up with a label for you because it is somewhat nondescript?
Considering the “Gen-Y” label of this younger community of people renown for “voting with their feet”, in your team or company, would they “stick around” and keenly and willingly contribute because they feel empowered to subscribe to and help deliver to a vision – your vision – or would they look elsewhere for opportunities that inspire them because your workplace is just another “same old same old”?
The fine line between Inspiration, Passion and Obsession
Big difference, isn’t there? Or is it really that big? I have learned that on face value the difference between these two positions isn’t really that big; that the dividing line is actually very thin and that it is often small and subtle differences that make the difference. “Soft” things like attitudes and expectations and behavioural standards and “living rather than aspiring to certain values”; the difference between instruction and empowerment; the difference between “a learning organisation approach” that encourages having a go and learning from the mistakes that are made, rather than punishing mistakes.
Hear Of The Art Of Finding Fleas?
Most of you are familiar with my “dog in the hunt” metaphor whereby I suggest that a dog in the hunt has no time to search or scratch for fleas, but isn’t it remarkable what “fleas” we can come up with when we aren’t “in the hunt”? Yep, I have learned that when we are chasing a dream or a goal or something meaningful and full of purpose that we are enthused, inspired and passionately involved. That in this state we can infectiously pull others along, or when we experience it in others that we too can be infected?
However, that without a goal we are directionless and more difficult to inspire, let alone inspire others.
isn’t this one of the tenets that differentiates good leadership from average or poor leadership?
Passion: yours or mine?
So when we talk about agenda and passion and purpose, would you agree with me that it is so much easier to be living those attitudes and approaches when we are inspired towards something? Does it matter then, whether it is our own agenda or that of the boss? What’s the difference?
I have often likened vision to something like a church steeple – that is easily visible by everyone in the village. Easy to understand; easy to want to become a part of; easy to be inspired to wanting to help in delivering it.
However, if that isn’t present in your team or organization, does that mean we can’t have or develop a vision of our own that we aspire to and thereby inspire others to do the same, whether we are a leader or led?
Do you want to be extraordinary?
In my blog: An Extraordinary Life I suggested that extraordinary people are ordinary people that “have or expect or do something extra”. So whether it’s the boss’s or your own vision, can you see how fine the line is between inspiring and being inspired or being or allowing “ordinary” or “average” attitudes or outcomes to prevail? It’s just a choice, isn’t it? A choice I suggested in last week’s blog Awareness in the state of which we can be very mindful of which we choose.
Obsession – a risk?
Of course we can’t always be “up”, can we? There are naturally times where we can allow ourselves to be “down” from time to time. Life happens. If we were always completely focused in the manner I have been suggesting above, we would have to be labelled obsessed. Obsession is when we are out of balance like two infatuated lovers that just can’t get enough of each other – obsessed by powers that appear willing to throw caution to the wind and risk everything. That is another extreme that is just as unsustainable as it is to be apathetic or ambivalent, isn’t it? As the definition suggests, we cannot be consistently pre-occupied with something whichever end of the spectrum it is and maintain a healthy, balanced outlook.
So what if I asked you to take a practical, real life example right now of when last you were truly inspired and to reflect on it? Go on think about a recent example and think about what it was that inspired you. Was it the boss or a peer or a subordinate or a friend or your partner or someone or something else? What was it? How did it come about and how did it manifest for you? What thoughts or feelings or actions did it invoke?
And when last do you think you inspired others? What was it that inspired them, do you think? Was it a “once off” or is it something you are known for because you do it often or irregularly but sincerely?
With the awareness you have on it right now, how could you plan to ensure that inspiration (of yourself and of and by others) becomes something you leverage more often than not? And if you did, what differences do you think it could make? To you? To your loved ones? To your team or your company? To your stakeholders? To your clients and customers?
What if you could?