We live in perilous times, where there is a critical need for inspired leadership. In the chaos of the markets, the global competitive challenges that most companies face, and the 24/7 work life that all employees face, we need a steady hand at the helm of their business, and at the first and second levels of leadership. This is more than inspirational speeches, or even strategic visions. This is about inspiration at a more fundamental level. What do I mean by this?
Often, we think of inspirational leaders who emerge in a crisis, like CEO Ken Chenault of American Express, who, shortly after 9/11 when Amex’s global headquarters at Ground Zero was decimated, pulled the entire company together in Madison Square Garden for a day. On stage he shared from his heart the pain he felt, his own grief, and his hopes for everyone in the future. He modeled the way and held the space for his workforce to share their grief, fear, and anger. And after that crucible moment in teir collective lives, he maintained his inspirational presence as he put his company back together.
Beyond the crises and the chaos we all face, though, there is another level of inspired leadership that is more fundamental. It involves the individual leader’s core values, the principles by which they live their lives, and their beliefs about the people in their workforce. This core foundation, these cornerstones of their character, are what make it possible for them to create workplaces fit for the human spirit and to connect with members of their workforce at a level of authenticity and humanity that is sorely lacking in the transactional life of business.
A grounded and authentic leader is one who:
- Honors People: Believes in the fundamental goodness of every member of the workforce, and that they each have a gift to bring to the table
- Provides Meaning: Gives them an identity they can be proud of and meaning in their lives
- Listens: Listens deeply to those who speak their truth, they
- Is Open: Is transparent in their leadership practices, including self-accountability for mistakes
- Builds Trust: Creates “psychological safety” in the workplace so that others may speak truth to power without fear
- Is Vulnerable: Make themselves known to others, and have empathy for the challenges everyone faces, incorporating that into their leadership strategy and style
- Acknowledges Others: Recognizes the contributions and sacrifices people make that benefit the company—and never takes that for granted
- Provides a Stake: Gives people ownership of the values, vision, mission, and strategy of the organization, so that the company is theirs—it is a “We” organization
I believe that every business leader has the potential of being an inspired leader. It’s an inside-out process that begins with “self” which allows them to bring their authentic leadership to others so thatall may benefit, learn and prosper.