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Are you a spark finder?

Fan the fire within

Are you a spark finder or the fire spark? My father used to say, “you can’t always believe what you read.” When it came to reading literature on inspiring leadership as a developing leader, I often believed what I read. One thing that stuck in my head when reading a prominent text on transformational leadership was, the leader was the ‘spark’ and followers were ‘flammable material’. Time and again leaders are implored to use their charisma to ignite the fire in others like some magical flame thrower.

Thankfully, speaking with inspiring leaders throughout my research led me to challenge, and sometimes discount, what I had read. Inspiring leaders I interviewed unanimously emphasised that leaders must identify the spark within people and inspire them to light it themselves. Lisa, a leader considered inspiring by her CEO, worked in a family counseling role and believed finding and encouraging people’s passion was integral to leading to inspire others. In contrast to literature Lisa explained, I am really interested in looking for that spark or that tiny flame that you can put air on, blow and make the flame bigger … to look for those things in people that is, that is them, to look for those strengths, those qualities or look for something that they’re really great at or what their passion is and really encourage that.

When I asked Lisa how leaders find the spark or passion she replied, “it’s not rocket science. I encourage it by creating conversations where they tell me about themselves rather than me having to chase it. It’s more often about getting people to illuminate their own spark and I use a process of therapeutic conversation to help them.” I was interested to know how Lisa knew when the spark was located. “I know when it happens because I see the excitement light up their face at the moment of insight or inspiration. Instantly, I see potential in someone so clearly,” Lisa replied. Once the spark was lit, Lisa supported the potential she saw within people and then explored ways that enabled people to work toward their potential. Lisa then told a wonderful story of how a young person, who self-harmed, had this passion to write. Through Lisa’s guidance and support the young person took up writing and went on to win a literary award. You can read more about that story in Inspiring Leaders: Practical Insights.

I now tend to believe what I hear from people who are inspiring leaders and do amazing things in their leadership … rather than always accept the things I read. What do you think when you read this post? Conceivable … or just more words on a page?

Summary Point

Inspiring leaders don’t start fires in others by lighting them with charismatic presence. Inspiring leaders take the time to find the spark within people and provide the fuel for people to see it and light it themselves. What’s your preference … are you a spark finder or the spark?

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