Why Great Leaders Inspire and Bad Leaders Demand

Why Great Leaders Inspire and Bad Leaders Demand

John Eades 02/12/2019 6

Do you remember the last time you couldn’t get someone else excited or motivated to do something that needed to be done? Chances are, you felt deflated, defeated and even a failure as a leader. 

As someone who has come face to face with these feelings myself, it’s a tough place to be. Whether it be a new employee who is showing no progress a month into the job or a child at home who just wants to play video games, you wonder, “What else can I do?”

Take Samantha, a supervisor at a large logistics company, as an example. She has done almost everything right since she took over her position as a supervisor. She built strong relationships with existing team members, defined a mission and vision for the team, set clear standards, and helped solve existing problems.  

She recruited and hired the best people she could find to fill new positions. Because of the foundation she laid out, most thrived quickly. However, one of the new team members is struggling to become a fully contributing member of the team.

Due to the fastpaced environment, she directs his every move and sets micro-deadlines to get him to do anything. She knows she is in a bad spot because she agrees with LinkedIn CEO’s definition of leadership on a recent episode of Reid Hoffman's podcast "Masters of Scale"

“Leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve a shared objective.”

One of the hardest things for leaders is flipping their thinking from “getting someone to do something” to creating an environment where people are choosing to do something because they want to do it.  

Sure, you can demand it gets done from a position of authority, but that will only last for so long before your people get sick and tired of it. Chances are likely that high performers will exit quicker than average performers, leaving bad leaders with a team of average to below-average performers.  

Before we get into a few strategies and tactics to help you inspire instead of demand, it’s important we level set on what it means to inspire. The formal definition of the word inspire is; to fill someone with the urge to do or feel something. Its origin is from Latin, and it means “to breathe life into.” 

There are many strategies and tactics leaders can leverage to “breathe life into someone else,” here are a few of my favorites from leaders featured in Building the Best.

Care about them First

In order for you to inspire your team, you first have to understand how much you care about them. To do this, you must reject the notion that words hold great power. Instead, accept the power of actions. The first action has to be getting to know them on a professional and personal level.  

Start by asking them questions about their own journey, experiences, challenges, and what drives them. Instead of just going through the motions, be intent on listening and remembering so you can adjust your actions in the future to show them you listened. 

Like all great relationships, the only way to get there is by dedicating time. A mentor of mine always told me, “kids spell love, T-I-M-E.” The same is true in showing people you truly care about them. Your time is valuable, and you can’t get it back. Devoting time to someone else shows that you care, and they are more important than anything else you have going on. 

Connect them to a Purpose bigger than Themselves 

Everybody whether they admit it or not wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves. As humans, we are wired to want to be in a community and connect with others. Part of your responsibility as a leader is to provide this community and a common purpose or mission for the group.  

“If they don’t buy into the purpose, it’s not worth the energy to keep them.”

If you lead a team, do not go another minute without being clear on why your team does what it does and its purpose for existence. It’s easy for people to get lost in the monotony of their everyday work without even considering not only how their work impacts the organization but also how it impacts people beyond its walls.  

By connecting the people to a team mission statement you’ll magnify purpose and immediately raise the ceiling of what’s possible. Not only that but when things get difficult (and they will) this deeper purpose will give your team a reason to continue on, even though the most trying times. 

Here’s the hard truth about inspiring others. Not everyone will be inspired. Not everyone will buy into the shared objective and you can’t choose for them. Your responsibility is to inspire them to action and if they end up making the choice not to get on board, it’s up to you to find someone else that will.

Elevate the Way You LeadBuilding the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill. It was named the #1 Best New Management Books to Read by Book Authority. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead.

About the AuthorJohn Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

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  • Sean Findlay

    Bad leaders do not inspire, they create a toxic workplace environment.

  • Rob Spencer

    I wanna become a good leader so badly

  • Helen Gilligan

    Valuable insight

  • Adam Thompson

    Interesting view on a much covered topic.

  • Steph Carter

    You can only figure out how to delegate and how to get people to do what you want through knowing the data point about those things which means you need to become an effective communicator.

  • Nicole Thomas

    Taking responsibility for a group and sacrificing one's desires for the greater good is typically what makes great leaders. They don't ask others to do what they, themselves, are unwilling to do or haven't yet done.

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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