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How To Be An Inspirational Leader

Today, I bring back one of my most-read blog posts from a few years ago:

At the end of each year, I select my choice for the best new leadership book for that year, and then highlight that book on my blog.

Well, we're only five months into 2017 and there is a new leadership book so good that I can't wait until year-end to share it with you. And, it's likely to be among the select few options for best new leadership book of 2017. The book is called, The Inspiration Code, by Kristi Hedges.


Perhaps now more than any other time, the need for inspirational leadership is critical in the workplace. Filled with profound insights and compelling data, and based on a commissioned survey on who and what inspires people, Hedges uncovers a set of consistent, learnable behaviors that dramatically enhance leadership success. And, shows you how to inspire those you lead. And, how to energize people every day.

Kristi Hedges

But, first, what exactly is inspiration? Hedges explains that psychology professors Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot have determined that inspiration is:
  1. Transcendence: We can see beyond our ordinary preoccupations or limitations to discover new or better possibilities.
  2. Motivation: We feel energized, or even compelled, to bring an idea into action or carry it forward.
  3. Evocation:We are receptive to an influence beyond ourselves that creates the inspiration within us.
And, to be an inspiring leader, Hedges explains that you must:
  • Be Present. Focus on the person in front of you. Keep an open mind and let conversations flow.
  • Be Personal. Be authentic and real, and listen generously. Notice what is true about others and help them find their potential.
  • Be Passionate. Infuse energy. Blend logic and emotion, and show conviction through your presence.
  • Be Purposeful. Be intentional. Serve as a role model and engage in courageous discussions about purpose.
As you read the book, you'll learn how to be a more inspirational leader for all kinds of business situations, such as:
  • Leading change
  • Managing people
  • Selling an idea
  • Communicating a vision
  • Recruiting and retaining employees
  • Growing talent and getting teams to stretch
  • Presenting ideas in public speaking settings

Some of my favorite takeaways from the book are:
  • Recognizing another person's potential--sincerely, specifically, and altruistically--is one of the most powerful and inspiring conversations we can have.
  • Leaders, through their positions of authority, have tremendous power to influence how others view themselves.
  • Communicating potential helps people access their strengths.
  • When we highlight potential, we boost confidence.
  • Identifying and vocalizing another person's potential is life-changing for that person.
  • Technology is killing inspiration. Distraction and distance are enemies of inspiration. One study cited by Hedges found that just the appearance of a phone on the table during a conversation--even while silenced-- reduces empathy. If we want to be inspiring, we need to get away from distractions, electronic or otherwise, and show up fully.
  • We're not inspired as much when someone talks at us, as we are when someone listens to us.
Looking for language to use to communicate potential in others? Hedges recommends you use this language:
  • "I see_____in you."
  • "You're always good at_____."
  • "I'm proud of you for_____."
  • "I've seen how you've grown/progressed."
  • "Let me share what I see is possible for you."
  • "What would you do if anything were possible?"

With chapter headings, such as The Quiet Influence of ListeningYour Energy is Contagious and Moving Hearts Before Minds, you'll find The Inspiration Code not only timely and educational, but truly uplifting.

Hedges writes about leadership for Forbes.com and is regularly featured in publications like The Wall Street JournalThe Financial Times, and Entrepreneur.

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