Inspirational Leadership

“Leadership is not magnetic personality – that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’ – that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”
– Peter F. Drucker

In a 2004 study, commissioned by the UK Government’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), more than 1,500 managers were asked what they would most like to see in their leaders. The most common answer, given by over half of respondents, was ‘Inspiration’.

However only 11% of people said that their leaders actually were ‘inspiring’.

According to the DTI, inspiring leaders have the following characteristics:

Strong Strategic Focus. They keep the business focused on its strategic objectives, without distraction. (See ‘Saying No’).

Lateral Thinking. Inspired leaders have a broad view and draw on experiences and ideas from outside their own industry or sector. (See Lateral Thinking Leadership.)

Vision and Communication. Not only are they clear about where the business is going, they are also able to communicate this vision clearly to others, often in simple graphic terms, avoiding jargon.

Principled. They have a strong set of values which encompass respect for others, honesty and openness, and are strongly committed to the business. They are often quiet and ‘under-stated’ rather than colourful and ‘charismatic’. (See ‘Level 5 Leadership’).

Reflective. They are capable of being reflective and humble about themselves. They realise how much they don’t yet know and have a strong appetite for continuous learning.

Risk taking. They are able to take risks – calculated risks – to achieve goals.

Accessible. They tend to have an ‘open door’ policy, not hidden away from staff. They will be found talking – and listening – to staff ‘on the shop-floor’.

Value attitude. They value knowledge, skills and experience in others, but foremost they value attitude when evaluating staff and their contribution to the business.

In reality, according to the study, 60% of respondents said that their Chief Executive was ‘out of touch with how staff feel’. Only 40% talked regularly to ordinary employees and only 19% had an ‘open door’ policy.

Inspired Leadership: An insight into people who inspire exceptional performance. Chartered Management Institute UK.
Inspirational Leadership. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

*Please contact me with your comments and let me know about your experiences and stories about leadership, particularly in creative enterprises.