“The task of leadership is not to put passion into people, but to inspire and elicit it, for the passion is there already.” –Ty Howard
In my personal life and career, I’ve had the privilege of crossing paths with individuals that have had this unique ability to inspire, energise and motivate me and others to be the best version of ourselves. From my primary school teacher that taught me the virtues of resilience and hard work, and the entrepreneur that took a chance on me and gave me a platform, to one of my early career managers that always put people at the top of their agenda, not to mention the mentor that impressed on me the importance of surrounding yourself with strong and diverse talent.
Highly successful in their own rights, each of these individuals brought their own unique and authentic leadership style. Yet despite the differences in approach, the one common denominator was their ability to get the very best out of me and everyone else. Their leadership and communication style was motivating, inspiring and earned the respect and loyalty from all those around them.
They were what I like to refer to as ‘Empowering Leaders’ and these are some of the memorable traits that for me characterised their leadership abilities
1. They Listen
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” — Epictetus
In today’s busy world of managing multiple priorities and persistent distractions, taking the time to listen to others can often become a de-prioritised communication skill, in favour of moving on to the next important thing. Yet, all the research and evidence shows that listening is a critical ingredient of effective communication. We may hear what someone is saying, but hearing is a physical ability, listening on the other hand is a skill.
Empowering leaders are present and in the moment. During that period of time that they have agreed to commit to you, you are their priority and you have their full attention. It becomes a two-way discussion and their considered and thoughtful responses reflect their impeccable listening skills. Their responses inspire action and enable you to move forward, or think differently and change direction.
2. They Shine the Lime Light
Empowering leaders are comfortable in their own skin and do not view talent as a threat. In fact, they do the exact opposite. They encourage, nurture and actively look for opportunities to showcase these talents to others.
3. They Coach
“People want guidance, not rhetoric; they need to know what the plan of action is and how it will be implemented. They want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it.” — Howard Schultz
Their goal is to help you become and present the best version of yourself. They focus on giving just enough guidance and advice to enable you to move forward, but place emphasis on using your own skills and tenacity to get to the final destination.
They rehearse with you prior to that big and important talk, and give that pep talk to ignite your confidence. Their feedback is practical and timely, making you more informed and ready for the next challenge.
4. They Challenge
Empowering leaders don’t always tell you want you want to hear. It may not seem like it at the time but their comments or feedback are not intended to discourage you, but to steer you to success.
5. They Sponsor
Behind closed doors they ensure that you are considered for the right opportunities. 9 times out of 10 you don’t even realise that they were directly responsible for the opportunities that have led to your success. However, empowering leaders aren’t looking for the credit.
6. They Embrace Different Perspectives
“There is no correlation between being the best talker and the best ideas” — Susan Cain
Empowering leaders see and find opportunities for you to use your authentic strengths. They recognise that the very best ideas and solutions often come from harnessing perspectives from individuals with different experiences and backgrounds.
7. They Inspire
Positive, passionate and full of infectious enthusiasm for their work and life, it’s easy to be inspired by them. In the face of challenge and failure, they show others the silver lining. Laser focused and a crystal clear vision for the future, taking you on the journey with them. As authentic communicators, their realness and integrity inspires confidence and credibility in them.
The characteristics and actions of these Empowering Leaders have shaped and influenced the person that I am today and the type of leader that I aspire to be. How have your role models or leaders inspired and empowered you?