Great leaders do more than just direct the work of their employees -- they inspire. They motivate everyone around them to give their best effort. They foster greater engagement and help their team work through challenging circumstances.
Of course, one of the greatest challenges for leaders is finding the right balance in being inspiring and a motivator to get the best results from your team, without crossing the line into becoming pushy or disagreeable.
It's a fine line to balance, but thankfully, there are several leadership techniques that can help you inspire more effectively.
1. Fulfill employees' fundamental needs.
Scientific research has determined that human beings have three fundamental needs -- to feel safe, to feel a sense of belonging, and to feel that they matter. These needs are obviously important in someone's day-to-day living, but they can be just as important in the workspace. When these needs are met, employees become empowered and engaged.
Communication is key to fulfilling these important needs. When you proactively communicate important updates to your staff, they feel safe -- they aren't caught off guard by a sudden change in policy or procedure. Acknowledging their contributions and listening to their ideas and perspectives helps them feel valued.
Finally, leaders must promote an inclusive environment where everyone can feel like they belong. This is especially important for minority employees, who are all too often subjected to discrimination in the workplace.
2. Clearly communicate your vision and values.
Encouraging buy-in from your team members starts by clearly communicating your company's vision, goals, and values. To truly engage and inspire your employees, these must be deeper than simply turning a profit. Many people have an innate desire to make a positive impact on the world, and they view their employment as a way of achieving that.
In fact, a study of employees in the U.K. found that among Millennials, 62 percent wanted to work at a company that had a positive impact on society. Fifty-three percent said they would work harder if they felt like they were making a difference. Roughly half felt that meaningful work was more important than earning a high salary.
Your ability to communicate a meaningful vision will inspire the best work from your team.
3. Create a collaborative workspace.
The most inspiring leaders don't simply dictate what needs to be done and then leave the room. They don't assume that their word is the last say on any given subject. They understand that their employees may have some of the best ideas, and they are humble enough to let a more collaborative environment take precedence.
It should come as no surprise that increased enthusiasm and productivity come from a more collaborative work environment.
4. Develop your "centeredness."
There are many attributes that can help make someone an inspiring leader. In fact, a 2017 study from Bain & Company identified 33 attributes covering categories such as developing inner resources, connecting with others, leading the team, and setting the tone for the workplace.
Of all possible attributes, however, their research concluded that "centeredness" -- a state of mindfulness and being fully present in all facets of your work -- was the most important. Improving your own mindfulness makes it easier to empathize, listen, and remain level-headed, particularly in stressful situations. This mindset helps employees feel valued -- and it's also an attitude they aspire to.
In reality, there's no "one size fits all" approach to inspirational leadership. In a Harvard Business Review article detailing the Bain & Company study, Eric Garton explained that leaders only needed to be proficient (or in the top 10 percent) in one of the 33 traits to double their likelihood of being viewed as an inspirational leader.
By creating a better work environment for your employees, harnessing your own unique strengths, and shoring up any weaknesses you may have, you will be well on your way to becoming a truly inspiring leader.