There has never been a more important time for leaders to be truly inspiring. Not just in business, but in politics, health, all aspects of life. With so much uncertainty in the world, people desperately need someone they can follow, trust, aspire to.
Here, then, are Pete Cohen’s top ten ways to be an inspiring leader, brought to you ahead of the launch of his 19th book, Inspirators: Leading the way in leadership, due for release at the start of Digital Leaders Week on 17th June, available online and in all good bookshops ().
- In business, especially, we are taught to think logically, but it really pays to connect emotionally with what you’re doing. The stronger you feel about the results you’re looking for, the more likely you are to believe in what you’re doing, even when things don’t go your way.
- To lead people, you need to be able to get them excited about the future destination, which means they need to understand it. So, create a compelling vision of a better future. Know where you are going and get really clear about it in your communications, thoughts and actions. Write that future vision down, draw it, articulate it, and most of all, be passionate about it.
- To really be sure your vision makes sense, involve your team in developing it. Ask people to contribute; ask for their ideas; test your thinking with them. It can be uncomfortable to invite feedback on something you care about (“What if they don’t like it?”) but it pays off when they are as excited about the vision as you are.
- For that to work, you must always listen to people. Put your phone down, stop checking your email and give them your full attention. Find out what’s really important to them and remember it. Great listeners are always great leaders – and great leaders are always good listeners.
- Because you are the leader does not make you better or more knowledgeable. Be humble enough to recognise that those who follow you have skills you do not and be open to their opinions and ideas.
- You are a leader second and a human being first, so never be afraid to show that you care. Take the time to stop and have a conversation with your team, recognise when times are tough, be ready to reassure, and prepared to support them.
- We are told when we are young “don’t copy.” I say, look at great leaders and ask yourself, what can I learn from them? What is it they do that makes them great? And see how you can apply your learnings to your own leadership.
- At the same time, make sure you are always authentic. There is a difference between learning from the examples of others and pretending to be something you are not. If you are yourself, you will be easy to follow.
- Being the leader is always full-on and busy. You are always on the run and juggling lots of things. Now is the time to recognise that multi-tasking doesn’t work. Whichever of the many tasks you are working on, give it your full attention, complete it and then move on to the next thing. You’ll be far more productive that way.
- Finally, and most importantly, remember that, as the leader, your primary task is to be the example. We learn by copying, by what we see in those around us. So the inspiring leader leads by what they do and how they act and how they listen, not by what they say, or how much power they have, or which car they drive.