Leadership Is A Behaviour, Not a Title



Today’s organisations face tough challenges, but these challenges are much easier to resolve when there is a capable leader behind the wheel. Companies all over the world are forced to think differently about culture, values, and purpose in order to compete in today’s marketplace. Within those companies, which have remained successful, are leaders who genuinely care. These are leaders who approach their colleagues and their work with openness, honesty, and both inspire and invest trust.

True talent leaders can assist companies to envision a different future by enabling a new type of leadership. These leaders are developing an innovative future because they have a different view on the definition of leadership. Leadership, to them, is a behaviour not a title. These leaders are also innovative thinkers, always developing novel ways to grow the company’s products or services.

It is up to leaders to satisfy what Emerson called a person’s “chief want”: someone who will inspire us to be what we know we can be. The challenge for all leaders is to become role models of inspirational leadership, encouraging others to share their vision and follow their lead.

Of all the necessary traits of an effective leader, the one thing that differentiates the best from the worst is the ability to inspire others to achieve their unique success.


What makes inspirational leaders unique?

Inspirational leaders create the highest level of employee engagement and commitment. These leaders offer their team stretch assignments and believe in their capacity to get the job done. They connect with each individual to know their strengths and where they need development. They believe in the power of collective impact on their teams. They foster a culture of innovation where generating new ideas is welcome.

Although essential, the traits of these leaders are not always as tangible as those aforementioned. New leadership models are needed to adhere to the change in time, but inspiration is the most vital ingredient.

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A recent HR report revealed that only four per cent of organisations actually inspire their employees. Inspirational leadership cannot be seen in terms of traditional leadership competencies, but values to guide the behaviour of the organisation and the leader. Inspirational leadership is about both business results and relationships, and there are specific principles of leadership to be exhibited by an inspirational leader and infused in the company’s culture.

Key principles

Today we live in a world where we must have the competitive advantage and that includes outperforming the competition, and being trendsetters, not trend-followers. These requirements are not unique to a particular company, so leaders have to take the risk to reframe and rethink their business position over those who are performing similar actions.  Leaders have to communicate their decisions to challenge convention and avoid complacency to see a new level of positive business results and to establish a deeper level of trust and commitment among their employees.

Inspirational leaders know how to earn and extend trust to ensure that decisions are accessible to all employees. As a result, employees feel empowered to do more in their companies and value their openness and transparency. When leaders finally embrace transparency as an established ethic, much like Google, organisations will accept how universally available information is for their employees and customers.

As companies have changed, so also have employees. People, especially the younger generation, are demanding more from work and life. They want to live a life of purpose and that includes not working just for a paycheque, but to truly pursue significance in the work they do each day. This is a serious focus for organisations, because employees are no longer simply satisfied with the corporate social responsibility programme of the day, but one where the mission defines its purpose.

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Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, at the 2008 Harvard Business School Global Business Summit,  gave a name to organisations that prize purpose: vanguard companies.

“In vanguard companies, belief in the purpose and embrace of the values generate self-guidance, self-policing and peer responsibility for keeping one another aligned with the core set of principles.” Kanter said.

“This type of human control system does not work perfectly by itself, but it certainly reduces the need for rules, and this helps people feel autonomous. Rather than feeling forced into conformity, employees feel that they are wilful actors making their choices based on principles they can support.”

Gone are the days when leaders should be leading the charge to create company values. Companies have to enlist today’s employees to determine what the company stands for. Leadership is about living, sharing and scaling the right values that will drive organisations to achieve exceptional results, which is done when all employees have a seat at the table.

This principle creates a sense of connection and pride in the company and its overall success. When employees are part of developing these values they also feel one with the company’s culture.

Inspirational leaders understand that culture is not too large or small to take notice of. Although it had previously been ignored for decades, today it is the lasting asset that will surpass any leader’s tenure with the company and will drive up business results for years to come.

Leading through culture is what establishes the infrastructure of a business and what creates communities within a company. Connecting with others in your company also, in turn, allows employees to collaborate across boundaries for greater success that is rooted in purpose and values. You have to reach a place of inclusivity by offering people both the support they need to be effective and the overall freedom to put it into practice.

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These eight principles of inspirational leadership should successfully interact and build on one another for the best results. Leaders use these eight principles to inspire, advance and leverage the organisation to greater heights in a world that is always seeking the next competitive advantage.

Leadership is about:

Reframing and rethinking your business position.

Earning and extending trust to other employees.

Embracing and celebrating transparency.

Pursuing significance in whatever you do daily.

Living, sharing and scaling the right values.

Leading through culture.

Connecting with others.

Collaborating across boundaries.


How do they inspire?

Oftentimes the misconception is that inspirational leadership only stems from a person with an extroverted personality. Many leaders shy away from the real inspirational form of leadership because they feel it will make them appear weak, too vulnerable, and/or not respectable. This thought is the furthest from the truth and those leaders who feel this way are lagging behind those who have clinched onto inspirational leadership.

An inspirational leader will establish a compelling vision for his/her team, while enlisting their creativity and zeal to develop higher goals for the organisation. The truth is that there are a number of different approaches to exercise, but at the root of them all is empowering your employees. Although each approach is equally valuable, it is important to hone in on multiple approaches to deliver the most effectiveness.

Can inspirational leadership be learnt?

Studies have proven that leaders can make significant gains towards inspirational leadership when they use the right approach.

With an adequate career development plan, a heavy dose of self-awareness, self-regulating emotional intelligence, and compassionately candid feedback, leaders are able to improve upon the most fundamental leadership competency – inspiration.

Lere Baale is a Director of Business School Netherlands www.bsnmba.org and a Certified Strategist with Howes Consulting Group www.howesgroup.com


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