February’s theme takes a heartfelt look at leadership in honor of Valentine’s Day. Based on the work of Lance Secretan, Ph.D, an author of 14 books, speaker, and consultant to clients who are among Fortune’s 30 Most Admired Companies in America, we explore the most essential element of effective leadership. He believes it is inspiration, from the Latin word spirare, spirit.
“After 30 years of study, teaching and practicing leadership in almost every imaginable environment, this is what I’ve discovered: Leadership is a serving relationship with others that inspires their growth and makes the world a better place. Leadership is something you live, model and practice, not something you tell other people to do. As Albert Schweitzer said, “Example isn’t the main thing in influencing others—it’s the only thing.”
However, this requires knowing why you are here; something that many people, including leaders, have not explored. Dr. Secretan encourages us to do this important work and believes it’s never too late to find out. Because when you do, you can inspire others. This isn’t the same as motivation, which is external and based on fear. Inspiration is based on love.
“Inspiration isn’t about me-it’s a gift to you that comes from my love for you and my desire to serve you in some way. Motivation is about me. Inspiration is about you. Motivation is about fear. Inspiration is about love.” Appreciating this subtle difference is critical to being an effective leader.
Getting clear on why you are here doesn’t just apply to individuals—it applies to companies as well.
Most company’s mission statements are a dry exposition at best-wanting to be the fastest, best, or most profitable. However when people connect to something bigger than that, something magical happens. Consider Timberland Boots. Their cause: to equip people to make their difference in the world. On their switchboard one day was a recorded message: “I’m sorry but none of our 4900 employees are at work today. They are in their communities, doing local service in 19 different countries. Please call back tomorrow.” Notice the emphasis on inspiration-getting people into boots and outdoor gear that help them do what they do better. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with that?
What does it take to lead in such a way?
An orientation that comes from love and not from fear.
In listening to clients and prospective clients recently, I notice that their discontent and longing stems from a desire to explore their purpose. In spite of having reached the landmarks of outward career success, they find something is missing that they can no longer live without. They find themselves distracted, anxious and exhausted-not joyful and passionate—at work. As one wise person recently told me,
“I want more out of my life than a soul-sucking job.”
How do you get that? First, discover your purpose. Why are you here on the planet? Figuring that out is the key to unlocking your inner leadership potential for full expression. It may seem like a big undertaking-and it might be-and it will still be the most important work of your life.
Get clear on your purpose
What cause do you care about—that you are willing to devote yourself to?
Align your talents and gifts with your cause
Take action, consistently
Inspire others through your own vision, hopefulness and passion
The work I do with clients helps them obtain clarity on this. Those who choose to engage with this work have discovered they are rewarded personally and professionally.
If you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2016, consider a heartfelt approach to your own purpose as a leader. If this inspires you, we invite you to post your comments here to share.