Building a High Performance Organization Through Inspired Leadership
A lack of inspired leaders?
Today’s workforce is uninspired. And yet, inspired leadership is one of the three leadership traits top executives most want from their leaders. “Of the 16 leadership competencies we most frequently measure, it is clearly the one that stands out. In our data, the ability to inspire creates the highest levels of employee engagement and commitment. It is what most powerfully separates the most effective leaders from the average and least-effective leaders. And it is the factor most subordinates identify when asked what they would most like to have in their leader.” (Zenger and Folkman)
We believe that inspiration is the most important resource to be managed in today’s modern world of work and that inspired leaders are the ones that build high performance organizations.
When leaders bring it all together at the individual, team, and culture levels, inspiration can improve performance exponentially.
The research says…
Outside of the work above and our own experiences working with clients, there isn’t much hard data on inspiration. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary can’t even define the word “inspire” without using the word inspiration to explain it: “to influence, move or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration.”
The research that has been done, while sparse, is encouraging: the insights fueling sustainable inspiration are forward-focused and lead to new behaviors. They engage action, sustain attention, and drive higher performance. Inspiration can benefit us personally but it’s also critically important professionally, both at the individual and organizational levels. In a 2014 article in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, Oleynick et al discussed their study of inspiration in the creative process, reporting: “during an episode of inspiration, the individual gains awareness of new possibilities that transcend ordinary or mundane concerns” leading the individual to then actualize or express the new vision.
We wanted to know more so we embarked on our own original research; we began by consolidating insights and observations from our work with more than 320 senior leaders. In 2016, we started data collection- including interviews with leaders across a variety of industries, experiences, and backgrounds about the role of inspiration in their lives and work. The data we’ve collected, from over a 100 interviews and counting, has confirmed and expanded on the considerable secondary research (i.e., positive psychology, emotional intelligence, motivation theory, and organizational behavior) that we’ve conducted on the topic.
Inspired leaders will build the high performance organization of the future.
In an increasingly complex and technology-oriented world, inspired leaders are the most valuable resource an organization can have. Inspiration is the key drive behind Wes Avila’s Guerrilla Taco trucks (that started before food trucks were legal), the Wright Brothers’ invention of flight, and Lin-Manuel Miranda revolutionizing the world of musical theater with “Hamilton.” We tend to think about inspiration as a powerful experience that visits us infrequently and without warning. But what if we didn’t have to wait or passively hope for it?
Inspiration is a force we have the power to attract and control.
Inspired leaders will shape the future of their organizations because they:
- understand what inspires them-they can identify their own unique inspiration blueprint and know how to ignite it themselves to perform at their best
- know how to ignite it in their teams to drive performance
- create a culture where inspiration is a resource to be managed and developed at every organizational level
A leader’s first job to inspire him/herself– but smart leaders don’t stop there. They continually practice inspired leadership as if they were training a new muscle, and through this sustained practice, create opportunities for their people to trust, innovate and bring their best selves to work every day.