John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States of America, considered that inspiring others epitomised leadership. He said: ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ The key tenet of this book by Duke Coporate Education is leading from the centre and presents key leadership functions that lead to inspiring others.
I read this book as part of my research and was re-energised by the authors departure from traditional leadership rhetoric. One refreshing perspective the book offered was that leaders removed from direct relationships with staff (i.e., CEOs) are less likely to inspire others. They are more likely to have charismatic effect but are less likely to inspire because the relationship is paramount and CEOs cannot develop deep relationships at all levels. This view is in direct contrast to current leadership theory and provides hope to us all.
The central message of the book is knowing the person. Authors suggest that knowing the person and building on their strengths, needs and aspirations enables leaders to shape situations that facilitate inspiration. The first few chapters of the book discussed motivational theories. Following chapters unpacked, what the authors referred to as, the ‘Inspiration Equation’:
Understand Person + Adapt Environment = Inspired Behaviour
There is also a distinction between motivation and inspiration. Authors explain that motivation comes from within the individual and that inspiration comes from the outside, influences external to the individual. They illustrated the distinction with an example of a coach. A coach [external] helps to inspire athletes in order to feed their motivation.
Critical ingredients for inspiring others:
- Stay connected
- Provide different opportunities
- Adapt the environment