After conducting interviews with thousands of executives, I've noticed there's a subset of bosses who inspire their employees and colleagues to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
These individuals tend to share the following traits:
Inspiring leaders believe that success serves a higher purpose. When you ask what motivates them, they talk about making other people successful.
Uninspiring leaders believe that success is their higher purpose. When you ask what motivates them, they talk about what makes them personally satisfied.
2. Giving Back
Inspiring leaders feel an obligation to "give back." Their long-term plans usually include pro bono work or even endowing a charity.
Uninspiring leaders feel no such obligation. Their long-term plans are limited to cashing in and/or buying physical objects.
Inspiring leaders are deeply grateful. They know that their success is hugely dependent upon accidents of birth and circumstance.
Uninspiring leaders are self-satisfied. They secretly believe their success is a natural result of being smarter and better than everyone else.
4. Beliefs & Values
Inspiring leaders treasure their beliefs. They don't wear their values on their sleeves, but their deeply held convictions pervade everything they say and do.
Uninspiring leaders foist their opinions. They demand converts to whatever religious sect or management fad currently captures their fancy.
Inspiring leaders care about people. They agree with Bill Gates that the fortunate few have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate.
Uninspiring leaders couldn't care less. They agree with Ayn Rand that the poor are merely "moochers" begging for a handout.
6. Team Focus
Inspiring leaders spread the credit. They never brag about themselves. Instead they redirect praise toward everyone else on the team.
Uninspiring leaders spread the blame. They are as quick to mention the mistakes of underlings as they are to toot their own horns.
Inspiring leaders are uplifting. You come away from meetings with them thinking, Gee, I'd really like to work here.
Uninspiring leaders are depressing. You come away from meetings with them thinking, Gee, I'm glad I don't work for that jerk.
Every truly inspiring executive, manager, or entrepreneur I've ever met has shared most or all of the traits described above.
Are there uninspiring leaders? Absolutely. And they're often quite good at motivating people. They just use different tools: primarily fear and greed.
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