Success On Your Own Terms Newsletter Volume #55, January 2009
Inspirational Leadership: A Presidential Perspective
Before I dive into the meat of this issue's topic, let me wish all of you an inspiring 2009. I'm framing my New Year's wish with these particular words because the reality of the business and economic situation today calls for inspiring leadership and it calls for each one of us to tackle our own personal goals for the year with a mixture of hope, determination and smarts. So, my wish is for you to inspire yourself and others to meet this year's challenges realistically while keeping your eyes and your heart on the future.
This is an historic week with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the US and the press is flush with stories outlining the enormous challenges he faces. What kind of strengths will he need to lead the US successfully through what is sure to be a difficult first year? In an article written in 2008, presidential historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin outlined ten attributes that she believes distinguish great presidents: courage, self-confidence, the ability to learn from mistakes, a willingness to change, emotional intelligence, self-control, a popular touch, a moral compass, a capacity to relax, and a gift for inspiring others. Most of us are hoping that President Obama has all or, at least, most of these characteristics.
Leaders at every level, however, also need these qualities. So, let's start out the year with focusing on inspiration because it's so desperately needed right now. When I am coaching leaders whose organizations are in the midst of change, when bad things are happening and people are hurting, the skill we work on the most is that particular leader's ability to hold both the negative and the positive in a balanced way.
If you are in a difficult situation or change process, you must hold the reality of the present with all its pain in one hand, and, at the same time, in the other hand hold out the hope of the future. To be an inspiring leader, you must be able to acknowledge the facts as they stand and demonstrate by the way you talk about the situation that you possess the intelligence to see reality clearly and the courage to face it squarely. While holding up the picture of reality, you must also give people the freedom to articulate their feelings even if those feelings contain anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness. You must have the strength to let people experience negative feelings, but know how to balance that negativity with hope. To be inspiring, you need to know how to paint a picture of the good things to come, and give people a vision to believe in - a hope that things will get better. President Obama's skill in this domain won him the presidency.
To be successful in transmitting that hope it is essential that you believe in the vision yourself and that you have faith in your own abilities and the abilities of your team to implement solutions that will bring the vision to life. If you don't communicate enough about your vision and how it benefits people with sincere passion and energy, if your words ring hollow, or if people don't believe you have the smarts, the right team, or the commitment to deliver, they won't trust you. And if they don't trust you, they won't be inspired by you.
Leadership requires practicing this delicate balancing act. You must be able to look reality in the face and not be afraid of it, and you must be able to see what others can't and explain your vision in a way that enables others to get glimpses of it, arousing their hope, and inspiring their faith in the future.
COACHING QUESTIONS ON INSPIRATION
How skilled are you at balancing the negative aspects of reality with a positive vision of the future? What skills do you need to improve?
How comfortable are you at dealing with negative issues, particularly negative emotions? What can you do to improve?
How effective are you at seeing possibilities and envisioning positive outcomes? What do you need to do to become a more positive visionary?
How skilled are you at communicating with passion and energy? What do you need to do to improve?
How skilled are you at surrounding yourself with the right people? What do you need to do to improve?
Copyright © 2009 Ginny O'Brien All Rights