Think about the word inspire—made up of in meaning internal and spire from the Greek word for breath. To inspire means to breathe life in. Inspiration is our connection to life itself. Without inspiration, we can’t move forward and be better. To inspire others is to breathe life into them.
Many leaders talk about wanting to motivate their teams, but we prefer to use the word inspire. Why? Motivation is internal. You can do all kinds of things to tap into motivation, but if you have someone who doesn’t have the talent for selling and you try to motivate them with financial incentives, it still won’t work.
Motivating others is about your needs. It’s about trying to get someone to do what you want them to do. Inspiration is about being in service to others, through giving them a valuable infusion of positive energy, of belief, of belonging, of connection to a greater purpose.
Take a look at an excerpt from one of the best-known speeches in recent history, and one of the most inspiring:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today…
We will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day…
Dr Martin Luther King Jr. exemplifies a “better with” leader. He did not change the world alone; he did so by creating powerful resonance in his followers, in the world at large, and even with his enemies. His values were clear, and his approach was appreciative, asking: how good could this world be?
How did he execute his leadership vision? How did he lead his legacy? He risked everything—ultimately even his life—for what he knew his community deserved and needed. He addressed the best in people—that which makes us put aside our anger—and he addressed the parts of us that understand that every human being is connected.
In the words of a consultant friend of mine, “Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t say he had a strategic plan—he had a dream!” Think about that when you are attempting to inspire the people around you to strive for greatness.
There is one other element of Dr King’s speech I want to draw your attention to: Nowhere in the “I Have a Dream” speech does Dr King say, “Here’s what’s in this for you.” #JustSaying
You need not become a world famous orator to think about how inspiring a leader you can be. When you are deeply interested in making your organization and the world a better place, your passion will likely shine through in all your words and actions and inspire others—all your various stakeholders—to want to be better, too.
What is inspiring? The following concepts are key to legacy driven leaders and help them achieve the success they desire for themselves and their organizations. Think about these topics, and incorporate them into your communications with your stakeholders:
- Belief in a positive future
- Shared gain
- Being a citizen with a voice
- Living our values and purpose
- Being great at what we do
- Having an impact on the greater community in a positive way
Take time to share your inspiration, and to watch it inspire others!
Excerpt from: Smarter, Faster, Better by Karlin Sloan