13.08.2012 Leadership and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Development 8 Comments

Is Leadership Inspiring or Inspired?

“You can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence.” Carl G. Jung

In his book, The Five Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell offers influence as THE definition of leadership. The power of a leader is demonstrated not through their title, but through their ability to develop mutually respectful, trust-filled relationships that lead to ever higher levels of performance and development, of both the individuals and the teams they’re privileged to lead.

How does a leader exert influence–not through power, but through persuasion–to inspire creativity in their team? What if we flip this? Have you ever wondered what your team can offer to inspire creative thinking in you? Think of what you could achieve, what everyone could achieve, if your creative ability was amplified by those around you. Consider, also, that in you drawing inspiration from them, you are creating an environment in which they, too, can be more creative.

So how to do it? There are many factors that come into play and every situation is unique, of course, but here are several elements to consider. It depends on you and your style, what your team is like, the history of participation and involvement in the team and in the company, the type of work you are doing, where you would like to be headed, and how you fit into the larger organization.

The first place to start, though, is through assuming good intentions–with you believing that your team has a lot to offer in terms of inspiring creativity in you, and then asking for ideas. Let them know you are inviting them to inspire you. Ask them how they feel they could inspire you. Take an interest in how and why they do their work the way they do. Make it evident that you are doing this because you are genuinely interested. Otherwise they may feel it is some plot to get more efficiency out of them and they could be suspicious or apprehensive.

And when you do draw inspiration from them, tell them. Thank them. Let them know you are excited about the new idea that they inspired. Tell them you are taking a risk and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter. Be a model of trying and failing, and then trying again. If it fails, let them know it was not their fault in any way and you still want and value their inspiration.

You will create an environment where people want to help you achieve, and in doing so you also are creating an environment where they can be creative and achieve themselves.

How can you encourage others to contribute to your creativity?  What other benefits can you think of?

8 Responses to “Is Leadership Inspiring or Inspired?”

  1. Great tips and reminders as always, Ken; thanks for consistently inspiring action among those of us who read and benefit from your work. As for ways to encourage others to contribute to our creativity, I think it’s really an extension of what you’ve said and what you carried over from Maxwell’s writing–encouraging and acknowledging a sense of community and collaboration; actively soliciting and acting upon what others care to offer; and always assuming that we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by people well worth emulating. The benefits include nurturing the sense of community that makes all of us better than we would be alone; reveling in the sense of community that grows within this nurturing environment; and having plenty to be grateful for when we see what we create together.

    • Ken says:

      And thanks to you, Paul, for your always thoughtful replies! Gratitude is, indeed, underrated and under practiced. Too much taken for granted, too little appreciated. A well-spoken “thanks” goes a long way towards reinforcing and encouraging desired behavior and performance–in business and at home!

  2. Rebecca says:

    I think you touched on a key component of a true leader, trust. When people trust their leader, they are driven to work harder, share ideas, and campaign on their behalf. Not because they are obligated to, but because they want to. Belief and trust in a good leader inspires confidence and positive energy. Leaders that recognize the worth of a group that contributes the best of what they have, and encourages the creativity and input of their team, can do amazing things. The kinds of things that make good organizations great. Thanks for the great post Ken!

  3. Bob Zimel says:

    Ken: Just letting one’s guard down — letting others realize that we each do not just push a creativity button and spit out another brilliant creative idea — is essential. My creativity is ignited when others around me are also in their creative zone. That to me is an essential way to encourage others to contribute to another’s creativity.

    And I love the thanking them concept !!!

    Ken, thanks for sharing your blog post and making me think today!

  4. Bob Zimel says:

    And, Ken, how do I get the nice photo on your blog instead of the grey and white chess piece?

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