Friday, April 19, 2013

Aspiring to Mutual Inspiration

"A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves."   
- Eleanor Roosevelt 

This is one of those memorable quotes that resonates with me in both personal and professional ways. 

The business application is more obvious so I'll start there.

I've had the great pleasure of working for a few people whom I admired and respected for their own success, wisdom and experience. 

The one who stands out most is someone who consistently showed me that the feeling was mutual.    I left every conversation with this highly respected leader having more confidence in myself and a more invigorated sense of my own capabilities. He charged me up. I'd be ready to take on any challenge; ready to make our business and him more successful.   Smart guy.    Also, a good friend to this day.

Compare that to other leaders who also commanded respect in their own right. And yet, there was always that question mark in my mind about how much they valued me and my contribution to the business.   In large part, I met my goals only because I found ways to light my own spark.  It wasn't always easy.  

When you think of which business will be more successful, will it be the one where people are mustering up their own sense of worth and creating individualized motivation? Or will it be the one that is charged with reciprocal inspiration and an energized rally cry of mutual confidence?

What do you think?

I've been pondering this idea that we can be inspirational leaders in our personal lives as well.  

For example, parents have a unique opportunity to ignite energy and confidence in their children. I used to think my job was to protect my kids at all times. Demand respect and be worthy of it. Make their lives easy enough with a bond strong enough that we could conquer anything, even puberty!     

When my own father passed away, I realized that one of the greatest gifts he left me was my belief in myself. My childhood being what it was, I'm sure there are things he would have spared me. But I also remember times when he stepped back and let me figure things out on my own. Through his intentions, words, and deeds he made me admire and respect him while also inspiring that same confidence within me.    He was a great father.  

In speaking to a group of friends last night, we agreed that not all personal relationships feel quite so wonderful.

Even with siblings and friends, sometimes it's hard for us to be as supportive and encouraging as we can (or should) be because we are trying to measure up to something ourselves.  Protective walls are made higher by implicit expectations or fear of not being "as good."  

True love and admiration might be there but we just assume they know. Our friend seems to be doing pretty great on their own, so what do they need from us? It doesn't occur to us to try to inspire them.  

Perhaps your boss assumes you know you're valuable. Maybe there's also room for improvement but s/he doesn't have the skills to communicate that in a way that doesn't murder confidence. S/he doesn't realize that a little proactive feedback (all the time; not just once a year or during crisis) would help you and the business in dramatic ways.

The lesson, I think, is not only to be someone worthy of admiration but to openly admire others.  Let them know.  Put forth words and actions that breed confidence.

I had this in mind when I added these three words to my personal brand: 
 Inspire. Ignite. Illuminate.  

You rock!!

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TabbyAnn said...

This is great. I love your 3 I's! Good branding!

Tony Bolden said...

Great article, Charlene. I wrote an article on transformational (inspirational) leadership last year (and I researched it as a component of leadership for my doctoral dissertation). It's a widely maligned concept ("too mushy, not business-like"), but highly effective.

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