Leadership styles are as varied as individual leaders themselves; different styles suit different people and different situations. The leadership style that resonates most with me is inspirational leadership.
As the name suggests, inspirational leaders inspire those around them to work hard and achieve their potential. They provide their team with the confidence, the energy and the resources they need to achieve sustained high performance, especially in challenging circumstances. Inspiring leaders motivate their team to take on bold, audacious and challenging missions. As the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan has said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
In practice, inspirational leadership begins with the drive to achieve a mission and the conviction that you will succeed against all odds. This manifests as extreme confidence in your assembled team and the belief that together you control your outcome. It is the conviction that your team possesses the grit necessary to persevere down a well-crafted course towards success — or to forge a new course when well-laid plans go awry. It is the certainty that, because of your commitment to hard work, you will never be out of the fight.
Communication plays a central role in inspiring leadership. Everything from body posture to word choice to volume impact a leader’s ability to successfully convey beliefs and messages with clarity, energy, and sincerity. If you watch speeches given by great leaders throughout history, you will quickly observe patterns in how inspiring leaders communicate. Dr. Martin Luther King, Admiral William McRaven, and John Wooden may have little in common with one another beyond their proven abilities to lead, but all possess communication traits necessary to inspire: each exudes confidence, balanced with humility, and the ability to instill a sense of togetherness.
Following up inspiring words with actions is fundamental. Words without the weight of follow-through will undermine a leader’s credibility. Therefore, an inspirational leader must conduct themselves admirably, all day, every day with few slips. Everything said, everything done matters. Your integrity, your work-ethic, your commitment to the team, your determination, your confidence, your poise, and your follow-through will be observed by your team and influence how they themselves behave. I’ve found that being present is a key first action; being visible “out in front” of your team and demonstrating your commitment to working hard sets the tone for those around you to aspire to uphold extremely high standards.
Often, the opportunities for a leader to be most inspirational coincide with challenging circumstances. During these tougher times, I have found it beneficial to remind myself to trust the process and to embrace the adversity. If my team and I are doing things the right way every day, I have experienced enough to know that, eventually, all challenges will be surmounted and aspirations achieved. We will learn and grow together while overcoming whatever roadblocks currently stand in our way. In that way, I tend to consider adversity to be a privilege because nothing meaningful is achieved or learned without hardship and sacrifice. All of my most significant learnings and proudest accomplishments were preceded by challenge. If a moment is extremely difficult, I know that I am faced with an incredible opportunity to learn and to achieve — and this is truly a great thing.