Leadership: Science or Art? Is Inspiration Possible?

We at Bersin & Associates devote a lot of time and attention to leadership.  Recently we were treated to a day-long event on leading ( not managing -- "leading") presented by members of Impact Achievement Group from Redmond, Washington.  (One thing I liked was their tag line "Leadership training that sticks!)

Our team leaders for the event were also authors of a book called "People Leave Managers...Not Organizations." It is an insightful look at the dilemma we are all familiar with -- the failure to retain top talent through really bad management, often delivered with the best of intentions or perhaps benign neglect. But one particular point that the authors Rick Tate and Dr. Julie White  made I found really worth pondering and wanted to share with you. They put it this way:

"Many managers have forgotten how to inspire others. They have been consumed and seduced by our knowledge and love for using techniques on others to get desired performance. Although many of the techniques seem to contain managerial magic and are easy to use, managers do not acknowledge their failure to inspire the soul of the average worker.  The result is a management population that goes about "doing things" to employees while simultaneously employees don't much like things being done to them!" 1

I suspect, unfortunately, that many managers have not just forgotten how to inspire -- they never knew how to in the first place.  Equally, I suspect that many managers spend very little time thinking about their role as "inspirers" to begin with.

What does it mean to inspire a team? Leading requires the ability to instill a sense of purpose, a positive purpose in keeping with the mission and goals of the organization.  Tate and White cite the need for people -- especially people in the workplace -- to have a cause worthy of their commitment, a cause that inspires them beyond being automatons in performing their jobs.  Leaders need to provide that inspiration, that supportive stimulation that drives their teams to creativity, innovation, and mission-related action.  

 Let's consider these two points: is what you are asking your employees to do actually worthy of their commitment? And what words and actions can you take today to inspire, support, and stimulate your employees to their peak performance?

And for your reading pleasure:  "People Leave Managers...Not Organizations" by Rick Tate and Dr. Julie White, iUniverse, Inc., Lincoln, NE. 2005.

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