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Not an inspirational leader? Think again.


3 min read

How do you inspire your people? You can feel they need something. You see them come into work with tired eyes and watch them half-listen during meetings. You know it’s on you to uplift them or bring them more meaning, something to get their head above water and remember why they took a job with your company in the first place. But if you’re not feeling inspired, how can you expect to inspire your team? No doubt, you have a real need for them to feel an ongoing drive toward results—a momentum that doesn’t require you hovering around their desk to make sure things get done correctly.

The good news is that the illusive inspiration your people need from you isn’t as far away as you think. Inspiration takes many forms and, as a business owner, you’ve no doubt asked yourself how you can be more inspirational. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, maybe you don’t think inspiration is important at all. You pay your people, they know what they were hired for, they’re adults, so you expect them to just do their job. The problem with that logic is that research—and probably your own experience—clearly shows that a decent salary and telling employees what you want just isn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

Most likely you understand that some form of inspiration is necessary but you just don’t think of yourself as the inspiring type. You watch TED Talks and say, “that’s just not me, I could never be like that,” or you compare yourself to industry leaders like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs—their stories inspire you but that’s where it stops.

So, let’s demystify inspiration a bit. First, if you feel that the version of inspiration you see in others is out of your reach, you’re right. It is. Because it’s not you. That’s the good news. The kind of inspiration you’ll bring to your team can’t possibly come from anyone else but you. And your people are just waiting for your unique version of it. It doesn’t have to be loud, funny, tear-provoking, complex, or quotable—though it may include any of those things. But it does have to be yours and, if you want it to translate into action on the part of others, it should be vulnerable and transparent (i.e. show who you are underneath and what’s important to you).

But what of yourself do you bring to the equation to truly inspire your team into action? Here’s a place to start.

  1. Do you know why you do the work you do? What makes you tick?
  2. Do you know where you want to take your business? One year from now? Three years from now?
  3. Do you know how each member of your team will contribute to achieving your vision?
  4. Do you know how your brand needs to feel to you, your team, and—most importantly—your customers?
  5. Are you clear on where you're getting in the way of your company’s growth?
  6. Are you committed to working on what’s getting in the way (fear, procrastination, disorganization, micromanagement, etc.)?

This isn’t easy work. It takes real digging within yourself, willingness to say no to things that aren't in alignment with what you want, and a commitment to bringing what you discover to the here and now. But what do you get from this very important work? You get the story your people are waiting to hear, the stuff that makes up real inspiration. This kind of work produces messages like...

  1. This is what drives me.
  2. Here’s where I want us to be.
  3. This is what I need from you as a member of my team.
  4. This is how I want our brand to feel each step of the way.
  5. This is how I’ve held us back from achieving my vision.
  6. This is what I’m doing about all the things getting in the way.
  7. Anyone want to join me?

Of course, this isn’t the only formula for an inspiring message but it’s certainly one grounded in the fundamentals and one that any leader can follow. And, if you don’t yet have the components in place to confidently deliver a message like this, then let these questions guide you in your next steps as a developing business owner. Because once you’ve set your foot on that path, you’ve got another story to tell. One that sounds like, “Team, it’s become clear to me that there are some vital pieces missing in us being able to build the kind of company I want and I know you want too. I’m getting to work to fix that so that I can give you exactly what you need to help us get there.”

That’s inspiring too because it’s real and it’s you going first in owning the change that needs to happen in your organization. And when you’ve done your core business development work, you can get back in front of them and deliver the other message. It will mean that much more because you brought them in even when you weren’t out of the woods. That’s inspiring. It’s better than a TED Talk and it’s something that will ignite your company culture in a personal way.

What’s stopping you now?

Slade Machamer

Written by Slade Machamer

Slade is EMyth's VP of Sales. He and his team work directly with our clients and our coaches to create rich and rewarding coaching experiences.