(1) Inspirational leaders set the pace. One of the great examples of this is depicted in the movie We Were Soldiers, directed by Ronald Wallace and starring Mel Gibson as Lt. Col. Hal Moore. Prior to leaving for service in Vietnam, Moore delivers a moving speech to his troops. He says,
I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive, but this I swear: I will be the first one to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead, or alive, we all come home together.
Moore then literally fulfills this promise. He is the first one to step into battle and the last one to leave. This is real leadership.
True leaders don’t ask their people to do anything they are unwilling to do. They lead by example. They model the behavior they want others to manifest.
(2) Inspirational leaders believe in the future. They are able to paint a vivid picture of a different and better reality. They make it concrete, so people can see it, touch it, smell it, and taste it. They give people hope that things can be better, and they have a plan for making it so.
Regardless of what you think of his politics, Ronald Reagan was a master at this. He offered hope. In the late 1970s, as a result of high inflation and high interest rates, Americans were discouraged. Many were cynical. Some were saying that things couldn’t get better—this was simply the new reality and Americans needed to get used to it.
Reagan painted a different picture. He didn’t accept the status quo. He offered hope for “Morning in America,” a time of new beginnings. People bought into his vision, because they liked where he was going.
(3) Inspirational leaders connect people to the larger story. People want to know that their lives have meaning. They want to know that they are more than a cog in a machine. They want to know that their work matters.
True leaders connect them to a larger story—something big and significant. Something epic. John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart and numerous other bestsellers, is a genius at this.
The ultimate story is, of course, God’s story. And, finding our place in His story is incredibly motivating. As leaders, our job is to help people understand that what they do, not only matters in this life, but in the life to come. It will “echo into eternity.”
(4) Inspirational leaders help people believe in themselves. We all get bumped and bruised as we go through life. Circumstances constantly conspire to undermine our esteem. It’s easy to lose heart—to begin doubting our ability to handle the challenges we face.
That’s why it is so refreshing to meet someone who believes in us and is willing to verbalize it. It gives us confidence that maybe we do have what it takes.
Great leaders—like great parents—help people believe in themselves. They look for opportunities to catch people doing something right. They focus on their people’s strengths, not their weaknesses. And, they have a knack for offering encouragement at strategic moments—when the team needs it.
Not everyone is in a position of leadership. But, as Robert the Bruce pointed out to his father, leadership is influence. And that is something all of us have.
Lets start LEADING