Provision #667: Inspiration Matters

Laser Provision

Great leaders are inspired leaders. The more passionate we become about the things that matter the more effective we become in getting others to care about and to contribute to those things. If the people you work with are lethargic or resisting your leadership, then perhaps it has less to do with them than it has to do with you. Perhaps you’ve lost the edge that comes from inspiration. That’s easy to do in the press of getting things done, but great leaders don’t let that happen. We make the time to connect with and to come from our values in all our dealings. If that time has been eluding you, then this Provision may show the way. Filled with inspirational quotes, it may jumpstart your engine for change.

LifeTrek Provision

What do the following inspirational quotes have in common?

  • “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” Mohandas Gandhi
  • “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” John F. Kennedy
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela
  • “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Ronald Reagan
  • “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama

If you noticed that all of these inspirational quotes were spoken by leaders, then you and I are on the same wavelength. Indeed, it is impossible to lead if we are not inspired. If we don’t feel the passion, it won’t come out of our horn (to borrow a phrase from Charlie Parker). Great leaders are filled with a passion that will not let them go. It bubbles up and comes through in all our dealings with people. As a result, it rubs off and inspires others to collaborate and follow suit.

The first task of leadership, then, is not to drum up people, give orders, and divide the work. The first task of leadership is to get inspired. Unless we have a genuine and heartfelt yearning for the task at hand, unless we have a sense of calling that relates to a larger sense of purpose and contribution, then our leadership will increasingly take on autocratic attributes. Unable to persuasively articulate our reason for being, for doing what we are doing and what we are asking others to do, we rely upon our positional authority to make people do things. Then we wonder why there is so much resistance and why we fail to get things done.

Gandhi, Kennedy, King, Mandela, Reagan, and Obama • among many others • have all understood and successfully navigated this dynamic. Instead of positional authority, they have tugged at the hearts and minds of their followers through inspirational authority. They had a vision that was larger than themselves and they shared that vision in ways that resonated deeply with many people. Is that possible only for social revolutionaries and political leaders with a grand sense of the sweep of history? Not hardly. Consider the following quotes from business leaders:

  • “Microsoft is not about greed. It’s about innovation and fairness.” Bill Gates
  • “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Steve Jobs
  • “There is little success where there is little laughter.” Andrew Carnegie
  • “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.” Jack Welch
  • “You have to master not only the art of listening to your head, you must also master listening to your heart and listening to your gut.” Carly Fiorina
  • “The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being.” Lee Iacocca

If you thought that leading a business or an organization is just about profit and Return On Investment, quotes like these invite you to think again. Even in business it’s important to have a passion that goes beyond the bottom line. Whether that passion expresses itself internally, as an organizational culture that reflects certain life-giving values, externally, as a product or service that makes a life-giving contribution, or both, great leaders identify, connect with, articulate, and come from that passion in every circumstance.

So how do we do that? We anchor ourselves in the values that are most important to us and then we seek to come from those values in all that we say and do. For all the go-go-go of leadership, there is a quiet side to the task that is often overlooked and underestimated. Unless leaders take the time to frame the kind of world we seek to embody and incubate, and unless that vision is life-enhancing, then chances are we won’t be the kind of leaders that people look to, work with, and celebrate in life and work.

In his book, Inspire! What Great Leaders Do, Lance Secretan proposes many ways for leaders to come to grips with our values and to turn them into our modus operandi with the people we serve. One of the simplest is to engage in regular bouts of reflective writing around what our values are, what they mean to us, and how we seek to express them in the world. Given the universality of those questions, it becomes clear that everyone is a leader when we know what we stand for and act accordingly.

To make sure that our leadership is life-enhancing, rather than life-destroying, Secretan suggests that we ruminate and write about our destiny, cause, and calling or what he describes as the Why-Be-Do of life:

  • Destiny: Why am I here on Earth?
  • Cause: How will I be while I am here? What will I stand for?
  • Calling: What will I do and how will I use my talents and gifts to serve?

If those sound like really big questions, then you are beginning to appreciate the weight of leadership. If those sound like never-ending questions, then you are beginning to appreciate how this ruminating and writing exercise is not a one-night stand. It is a lifestyle that leaders embrace and come from for the duration.

How does that work for me? You’re reading it right now. Provision #667. Week in and week out for more than a decade I have made and taken the time to collect my thoughts, write them down, and put them out in the world. People ask me how I can do this every week? As leaders, we might ask, “How can I not do this?” Each and every one of us is charged to find regular ways to wrestle with our destiny, cause, and calling. The task is never done, because we are always growing and life is always changing.

And Provisions is hardly my first venture in reflective writing. I had to laugh recently, given the name of my coaching company, to discover old issues in my attic of a newsletter I helped to write, edit, and produce in college (in the mid 1970s). What did I call that publication? The Lifeline. Apparently the name “LifeTrek Coaching International” didn’t fall far from the tree. Since before we had computers, in the age where we actually had to erase or whiteout our mistakes, I have enjoyed the regular discipline of writing about, appreciating, and reflecting on my understanding and application of life-enhancing values.

I would encourage you to find your own reflective writing routines. If you are already a leader, then regular reflective writing will make you a better leader. If you want to become a leader, then such writing will show the way. The more inspired you get, the more inspired others will get by your leadership. There really is no better way to serve.

Coaching Inquiries: What are your daily, weekly, or monthly reflective rhythms? How could you become clearer about and more committed to your values? How could those values become the way people know you in life and work? Who could become your conversation partner about the Why-Be-Do of your contribution and calling on planet Earth?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

I am amused by the connection between the number of your last Provision (666, the number of the Antichrist) and it’s topic • Rituals. Jokingly, I enquire “Just what kind of rituals are you suggesting here?” Hopefully not Satanic ones, as indicated by the number. (Ed. Note: Coincidence noted! But it was happenstance and, fortunately, all the rituals were healthy • some might even say holy. I hope you enjoyed the practices.) 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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