Leadership is neither a destination nor a finite skill set. It is a constantly developing journey of awareness and elevation. Some choose leadership and others arrive there without realising the role they had agreed to would require them to lead. Even those who choose it are seldom fully prepared for where it takes them. Leadership, even leadership of self, is a constant evolution of perspectives and pressures, trial and error, learning and reconfiguring.
Inspiring others is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of leadership, as energising those who form your team often requires an injection of energy not already present. Sometimes it is a subtle energy that empowers an underlying buzz, and sometimes it is a greater energy that will carry a team towards a higher level or a greater goal. Either way, inspiring or motivating others is a required leadership skill.
Before we go into it, let’s first define the difference between inspiration and motivation.
Many people talk about motivation — as in motivational speaking, or motivating a team etc. I don’t personally believe that you can motivate people for very long. You can pump them up and point them in the right direction, but motivation is an outside force, and what is needed to drive people for the long haul comes from within. Motivation has been described as existing in one of two ways — stick or carrot. You can either entice someone towards motivation, or you can threaten them into it, neither of which are very powerful. Inspiration, however, comes from an entirely different place and has completely different results. It’s imperative not only to understand this but to know which one you’re aiming at.
Personally, I think most people opt for motivation because it’s the quicker, easier route. It gets immediate results even if it doesn’t last very long. So, if you’re a leader looking for quick results and you’re willing to keep expending your own energy coercing your team back to action every time they flag or encounter another hurdle, then read no further. No doubt the frequency of that energy expenditure will have you well practised by now. However, if you’re interested in a different kind of burn — if you want to light a deeper, more enduring kind of fire that burns slow and then builds to something self-sustaining that can’t be…