A leader that inspires performance is a leader who finds joy and deep satisfaction in developing her or his people and celebrating their successes. Such a leader is open to exploring what is truly satisfying in life. Is the accumulation of wealth and personal recognition the ultimate source of happiness, or does generous concern for others lead to fulfilment.
In the Genos six competencies model of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership the sixth and final competency is the ability to Inspire Performance. To inspire means to “To fill someone with confidence and desire to do something” (Cambridge University Dictionary). When inspire first came into use in the 14th century it had a meaning it still carries in English today: “To influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural influence or action.” This meaning is a metaphorical extension of the word’s Latin root: inspirare means “to breathe or blow into.”
True empowerment is about many things but at root it requires the leader to not want to take credit, not be seen to be the hero, but rather relish seeing those they empower flourish and grow. Such an empowering leader is generous, trusting, and can let go of wanting to be in control all the time. “It’s not about me; it’s about my people!”
To be an inspiring leader is to be an inspired person. In the spiritual journey there is a progression from obsession with self to an awakening realisation of how much more enjoyable and fulfilling life can be if you focus on others and improve their success and well-being. Leaders who truly inspire performance are typically people who have evolved into this state of living whether consciously or not.
The Genos Model has Empowerment at one end of the Inspiring Performance spectrum and Indifference at the other. I am sure you have come across indifferent leaders! I remember coaching a global head of marketing for a finance firm in New York City who was responsible for 3,000 employees in several locations across the USA. He never visited the people in the regional offices. I conducted some interviews with people out in the “provinces” and the constant theme was “We never see him.” And “We haven’t got a clue about where he wants to take the organisation.” This executive was the epitome of Indifference. In truth I do not think he was indifferent but how he behaved, how he impacted the organisation, gave the impression that he did not care about other people but only himself. It was a salutary shock for him to hear the feedback.
You have to genuinely care about others and then show them you genuinely care by your actions.
The Chairman of that same global company headquartered in New York City worked from his plush office on the 52nd floor of a 52-story building. One day the door of a young employee on the 23d floor was open and a gentleman politely asked if he could come in for a quick chat. The gentleman stayed for ten minutes as they got acquainted. That gentleman was the Chairman. The news of this exceptional visitation spread like wildfire. Everyone loved their Chairman because he embodied all that they valued about an inspiring leader. He took time out to connect with people regardless of their status in the organisation. Certainly not indifferent.
And then there was Mr. Smith, my Latin teacher at boarding school. His energy level had flatlined and he sounded like a drone. I came 17th out of a class of 17 boys in his final year. The next year Mr. Brown arrived and from the start I joined the boys sitting in the backrow teasing and taunting the poor man. Us cynical kids obviously felt he was easy prey for being so open, nice, passionate and super enthusiastic about teaching us Latin. But despite the horrible ridicule he suffered he continued to be his authentic self and by the end of the year I was sitting in the front row and came in 1st out of 17! Mr. Brown “breathed” life into me. I came alive in his presence and went from the bottom to the top of the performance ladder.
If you want to become an inspiring leader you will want to teach, educate and coach. You will learn how to give constructive and helpful feedback. You will take pleasure in seeing others blossom and find joy in celebrating your people.
Here are some of the key leadership behaviours that constitute the Genos Model’s sixth competence – Inspiring Performance.
- Maintain a positive work environment.
- Be willing to share your purpose and help others understand their purpose and meaningful contribution to the organisation.
- Help facilitate others’ development and advance their careers by providing useful support and constructive feedback and guidance on behaviour and performance.
- Recognise and celebrate others’ hard work and achievements.
Do you inspire your people to perform?
The corporate Head of Marketing and Mr. Smith the Latin teacher were not bad people. It is just that their focus was not primarily on inspiring others to reach optimal performance. They had not developed the Emotional Intelligence skills that start with self-awareness and the awareness of others. Once these two competencies have been worked on and developed the leader can then choose the path of being a leader who empowers, is ‘other’ focused, and teaches, coaches and mentors people to become high performers.
I am sure you can think of great band leaders, sports coaches, politicians and business leaders who fit these criteria and inspire great performance. I think of Quincy Jones the great American jazz musician, Jurgen Klopp who manages Liverpool FC, the best football team in the world, Jacinda Ardern the current Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Muhammed Yunus the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh who started the whole microcredit movement. Who do you admire and celebrate? Please let me know!