Inspiration is as old as the hills and as needed today as ever to meet the challenges we face in today’s world. We can learn a lot by looking back at history, finding our inspirational role models, and reflecting on what made them inspirational.
I challenge you to think about becoming an inspirational leader and how you can be different and bold.
Developing inspirational leadership in your organisation
It is essential to have a “growth mindset” when organisations seek to develop the inspirational leadership skills of their leaders. This is a mindset that says, we can grow, we can change, we can be different, and we can be better at what we do. All we need is access to some good development opportunities!
It is also essential that any development programme seeking to engage the hearts and minds of delegates is inspirational in its content and the environment it is delivered in. Below, you will find six recommendations derived from lessons learnt from our practical experience in delivering such programmes.
I would recommend starting with the individual skills of the leaders and, then, through a process of coaching and mentoring, working with these leaders to establish a psychologically safe environment where inspiration thrives. Then, focusing on the collective mindset of your teams, develop “teaming skills” and combine psychometrics with learning and development programmes on thinking skills to open minds.
Creative and problem-solving skills are essential to help the leader deliver new, creative, and innovative solutions to business challenges. Encourage diversity, respect, and trust, and develop frameworks to understand how to monitor performance and progress.
In our experience, there are six key things to think about when developing an inspirational leadership programme:
1. The environment. This should be inspiring in itself. Suppose an organisation wants to stimulate creativity and reflection on personal inspirational skills. In that case, it is recommended that any face-to-face event takes place in an interactive, multi-sensory and inspiring environment.
2. Blended learning programmes. Programmes should be designed using various tools and delivery methods to stimulate thinking. Pre-course arrangement could include research and preparation of a presentation on personal role models who inspire participants; completion of psychometrics; identification of inspirational environments participants have worked in before, and what is it about that environment that inspired them. Post-course work could be 1:1 coaching, action learning sets, follow-up webcasts and videos/eLearning.
3. Face-to-face events. These should include an opportunity to reflect on personal role models and why they inspire individuals. Explaining to participants how to model excellence is another excellent tool. This can then be applied in the inspirational environment to encourage the participants to observe, listen, describe and model inspirational leaders. Inspirational toolkits providing a range of practical hints, tips and techniques to practice back in the workplace are also helpful. This should be presented in a dynamic, interactive and memorable way to engage participants and demonstrate how inspiration creates flow and learning.
4. A range of core topics could be explored via workshops, such as:
c. Leadership styles
d. Neuroscience and communication
e. Modelling excellence
f. Thinking skills
h. Psychological safety
i. Inspirational leadership models
j. Reflection on the inspirational leadership behaviours/skills/values
k. Exploration of values such as courage, discipline, respect, integrity, authenticity, diversity, loyalty, selfless commitment
l. Inspirational culture/climate: Innovation, creativity, risk-taking, empowerment, learning
m. Inspirational psychology and emotional intelligence.
5. Support. Introducing a coaching and mentoring framework to an organisation will enable participants to find coaches and mentors to support their development. This ensures that the decision to begin to develop inspirational leadership skills is sustained and nurtured to obtain favourable results for the organisation.
6. Speakers. Inspirational leaders could also appear and give a speech during the event or at an organised evening event designed to inspire attendees.
So, what does all this mean for you?
Inspiration is a hot topic and a topic every leader involved in talent management, learning and development and leadership should reflect upon. People today are weary from constant change and feeling the pressure of having to do more with less. We are asking many of our leaders: It is time to get smarter, understand how to inspire others to action, and start talking about leading people through an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous business world.
The business world needs inspirational leaders, but inspirational leaders do not just miraculously appear to lead us to outstanding achievements. It is essential to recognise that any programme developing leadership skills should include a core component that enables reflection on the essence of inspiration. Leaders need to be allowed time to think about, discuss, explore and reflect on what inspiration means to them and how they can develop their inspirational leadership skills.
We can learn by reflecting on great leaders and role models for inspiration. Learning how to reflect and model excellence is an important skill which will enable leaders to continue the journey of reflection and discover and develop their styles.
Development programmes in inspirational environments, combined with expert facilitation, is a great way to start this journey of self-reflection. When combined with the introduction of leadership toolkits (methods, techniques and models to understand leadership) and inspiring talks from role models, inspiration begins to flow. Once leaders start to understand the essence of inspiration, it is good to follow up with theories, such as inspiration and neuroscience, psychological safety, teaming and leadership styles, and the value of diversity and trust.
The leaders should then act as role models within the organisation and create a climate that allows inspiration to flow and galvanises people to action. The importance of coaching should also not be underestimated. Good executive coaching will embed behaviours and is integral in delivering accountability and change.
Inspirational leadership should always be placed on its impact on organisational performance and the level of maturity the organisation wishes to reach. All of this, combined with a reflection on what we can learn from history and inspirational role models, will stimulate our talented employees to reflect on how to inspire others. By finding their source of inspiration, they will be moved to action and uncover a desire to grow their inspirational leadership capability.
Finally, we can never underestimate the importance of education in the development of our leaders. Inspirational leadership should be developed just like any other form of leadership, but the learning event should be inspiring, engaging, motivating, and memorable in its very nature.
We recommend that the content of this article is reflected on, and any development programme includes the elements described above.
Let Nelson Mandela round off our article with his famous quote about education:
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Now, take this challenge:
• What will you do today, tomorrow and next week to educate your talented employees, develop their inspirational leadership capability and engage their hearts to inspire those around them?
• How will you start to develop your inspirational capability?
• What would an inspirational leadership culture and an inspirational climate look like for you or your company?
I hope this article has been helpful and stimulated your thinking. I would be happy to hear your views; after all, inspiration is useless if it does not create flow and connection. If you feel inspired by an idea, feel free to inspire others by sharing it.