The 'Why' of Leadership

Image of Eric Easter


February 2, 2009

Leaders able to inspire give their company a competitive advantage. When times are tough the ability to provide direction and hope for a better future is critical. It is so easy to lose faith and go negative. Astute leaders stay tuned into the vibes of the organization and address the inevitable concerns proactively.We want to be inspired. We want our leaders to take us places that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to go; to see things that others only dream of seeing, to do things we didn’t know we were capable of. To do this, leaders must be able to communicate their vision of the future in a way that inspires our confidence and actions. This doesn’t necessarily mean all leaders must deliver rousing, eloquent speeches. It does mean that no matter how it is conveyed whether one on one or in an auditorium filled to the brim the message must be clear, genuine and invoke emotion–emotion in the listener as well as the leader. To inspire others we must touch them emotionally. To do this we need to convey authentic emotion ourselves.

To be able to inspire a leader must be seen as trustworthy, sincere and competent. Words alone will only take one so far. There must be a vision that naturally leads to an executable strategy which is understandable to all. Participants must believe or if they are unsure they must have enough faith in the leader that they will give them the benefit of the doubt. The leader needs to be sensitive to the concerns of each member of the team and assuage them with relevant feedback.

No vision is executed without a hitch. There are dark days that demand perseverance and faith. The leader must recognize when the team is feeling unsettled. Events change and can create uncertainty. It is at these times that the leader’s projection of a calm confidence and belief in the vision is most needed.

Revisiting the vision and strategy with the help of fellow stakeholders is a normal part of the process. An understanding that progress is generally uneven recalibrates emotions and helps the team approach the challenge objectively. Reminding oneself and others that when one does the right things good things will happen-not necessarily when one wants, but they will happen-taps into the faith the group needs and adds perspective to the process.

Few things in business are more satisfying than a vision achieved. Rarely does it happen as planned. However, knowing when and how to modify the plan based on changing variables is a big part of the satisfaction derived from the process. The ability and willingness to adapt to unexpected events challenges the leader and the team. Inspiring the group to overcome these obstacles even when no clear path is evident is the essence of leadership. Leaders must dig deep within themselves and communicate their belief in the team. All of us have the capacity to do and achieve so much more than we think we can. When this is hardest to see is when inspiring leadership is needed most.

Have you known any leaders who inspire? If so, how did they inspire? What made them inspirational? Sincerity? Confidence? Competence? Did they inspire others or just you? What percent of the leaders you have had were truly inspiring?