Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor | Morgan Stanley
In my mind, leadership is a journey from execution to empowerment. You move from being an individual contributor to developing, enabling and inspiring others to think, create, execute and lead on their own. You become deliberate in encouraging others to make their own decisions and to act on those decisions without an express directive from you. To develop and enable others to lead is a direct action that is channeled from you to another person. However, truly inspiring someone is an indirect motivation that comes from another, as a result of the attitudes and behaviours that you exhibit as a leader.
At its core, to inspire means to provoke an action, sentiment or thought; or, as the Merriam-Webster dictionary states, “to make someone want to do something.” As a leader, your behaviour, speech, attitude and delivery should motivate others to action, usually positive action. As a purposeful leader, your behaviour should motivate others to act with excellence, to be the very best that they can be at that moment, and to do so deliberately.
One of the most powerful ways to create this positive urge to execute with excellence among others is to consistently exemplify this in your own behaviour. When those who are working with you see that you are always encouraging others to think innovatively or creatively, or that you are constantly challenging others in a positive way to do more—to reach further, to take risks—then they will feel empowered to do the same.
As humans, we are very susceptible to learned behaviours, especially when these behaviours are repeated in front of us over and over again. Almost unconsciously, we start to exhibit the same behaviours. If those behaviours yield positive results or even positive feelings, we will naturally want to expend the energy to recreate these behaviours; in other words, we are inspired to do the same.
To inspire someone demands that you as a leader to act with positive energy, even when the going gets tough. Your criticism must be honest but encouraging, and your reprimands must have a positive alternative attached. Your praises must be effusive and pervasive, covering as many people as possible for a job well done. Your disappointments must be couched as learnings, your challenges as strengthening exercises, and your failures as growth opportunities.
Purposeful leadership involves creating a lens of opportunity that the entire team looks through in approaching every endeavour. It means attaching that lens to a “can-do” mentality. In fact, inspiring those who work with you involves behaving in such a way that those people want to emulate your behaviour because it makes them feel good or confident about themselves, and it allows them to envision that success aspiration for themselves.
As a purposeful leader, you must be thoughtful and deliberate in your actions to motivate those who are working with you to bring their best selves to every engagement. Inspiring them with your actions and your behaviour will be far more impactful than dictating what they should do, because it allows them to bring their best thinking, their best solutions, and their best creativity to the endeavour, yielding better results for you as a leader and for your entire team’s success.