Inspirational Leadership: Show And Tell

Dr. Purushothaman
December 17, 2013


Model What You Want Your People To Do

Whether you own your own business, or you're trying to make your business "roar," you need to inspire the greatest possible performance in your team. You do this by giving them clear goals and the resources they need... but you also do it by embodying what you want them to be like, both in attitude and action. That's the essence of inspirational leadership.

There's more to it, of course... selection of the right people... communication of the right things... all that stuff you do every day. But if you want to inspire above-average results, you have to be an above-average inspirational leader.

My consultant clients have always been most inspired by the senior people in their firms who embody the "great consultant" - the partner who has all the smarts, but is also a great person in every aspect of her life. As an actor, I remember the best shows - the "inspired work" - were the product of a great director who could not only intellectualize the performance he wanted, but could demonstrate how he wanted it done. And of course, the best salespeople make the best sales managers, in most cases. In virtually every industry and line of work, you'll find the same to be true... the best leaders are the ones who can (and do) do it themselves... and do it to a high standard of excellence.

I've often told my clients there are really two ways to "model" what you want from your people - the accidental way, and the deliberate way. Anyone who is a parent of small children knows about "accidental modeling" - your kids watch everything you do, and they start by learning to mimic you. New staff members are not that different, so you have to develop enough self-awareness to know what you are accidentally modeling for your folks, lest they adopt habits you really don't want (because they're habits they know YOU to possess).

Accidental ("role") modeling is powerful, but so is "deliberate" modeling. That's where you sit down and actually show someone what you want them to do, and how to do it. "Here's how I start when I do a spreadsheet forecast," or "You might try this format on your reports," or "Let me show you a shortcut I learned when I first started charting these findings" are examples of things the deliberate modeler finds herself saying. And the results can be outstanding.

There's no doubt - as the leader, you have to, well, lead the way. Take a good look in the mirror (and get feedback when you can), and make sure you're embodying the right things. And don't be shy about sitting your folks down and being the teacher and coach. If you have the right attitude about it, you're not overstepping your bounds or micro-managing - you're providing help for which your team will likely be appreciative.

Read Related Recent Articles