Inspire Everyone You Meet

Dr. Purushothaman
December 17, 2013


Inspirational Leadership Doesn't End At Five

I love a certain TV ad that runs occasionally here in the U.S. It depicts various people, going about their everyday lives, and pausing a second or two to do something kind for someone else. In each case, the act of kindness is witnessed by a third person, who goes on to do something nice for another person in the next little vignette. The message, sponsored by a non-profit foundation, is to pass on kindness whenever possible.

I couldn't agree more, especially at this time of year.

Many of my clients are people who own a business or make money by investing, or both; some are captains of industry, some are leaders in other walks of life. Whatever their "calling," the overwhelming majority tell me they'd like to be more inspirational leaders. Here's a tip: if you aspire to inspire great things in others, practice by inspiring small kindnesses in everyday life. Do this by showing kindness yourself.

Here are some easy ideas for showing small kindnesses and generosity. See if you can't use these to make someone else's day, and perhaps to inspire kindness and generosity in them.

You should be living a life of personal responsibility in order to be a role model of inspiration. As part of that, never assume it's someone else's job to clean up after you, even if it IS. The other day, while busily going about my Christmas shopping, I stopped for a few minutes to grab some Chinese veggies at the food court in my local shopping mall. By force of habit, I cleaned my spot at the table when I finished my meal. I hadn't made much of a mess, so it only took a few seconds to wipe the table and chair with a napkin and make sure all the trash was stuffed into the nearby bin. I dropped my napkin and had to go back, retrieve it from the floor, and toss it. For some reason, as I bent to pick up that napkin I noticed I was being watched... and sure enough, a minute later I saw a couple of teenagers rise from their table and clean it before leaving. That TV ad popped right into my head!

Maybe they'd have done it anyway, but I like to think I spread a little inspired kindness at that moment. And it was a good thing, too, because in another minute a harried couple with two small children parked their trays at the table vacated by the teenagers. It's Christmas. Shopping malls are very busy. The folks hired to wipe down the tables can't get to them fast enough to make sure everyone has a freshly-wiped table who wants one; empty tables are at a premium in the first place. So good for those two teenagers. They helped someone a little bit. I hope someone else saw them do it, and went on to be helpful to yet another person that day.

Here's another thing: always tip. Even when it isn't customary. If you've been blessed with the kind of good fortune enjoyed by most of my clients, there are two things you should bear in mind: one, you can afford to tip. The recipient of the tip needs that extra buck or two more than you do! And two, you would not have amassed your fortune without some kindness, somewhere along the line, bestowed upon you by someone else who did not have to be nice to you. Maybe it was a loan when you most needed it; maybe it was just some free advice that helped you make some money. Whatever got you where you are today, you can - and should - leave gratuity whenever possible. Do you leave a few bucks for the housekeeping staff who cleans your hotel room? How about drivers? Concierge folks who give you aid and advice in a strange city? Don't waste your mental energy rationalizing why you don't need to tip... instead, use some of that amazing creativity looking for new ways and reasons to tip.

When you do leave a tip, do it generously. For instance - and you may have a hard time agreeing with this - it's my policy to tip, and tip generously, even when my restaurant service was BAD. Why? Because I don't know why things didn't work out well. It might've been the kitchen's fault, or perhaps the floor manager is new to her job and hasn't staffed the room with enough waitpersons. Maybe my waiter just got horrible news and is doing his best to put a heroic face on himself, get out there, and work for a living even when it's the last thing he wants to be doing. Sure, most of the time it's probably not such a noble reason. It might be incompetence. It might be downright laziness. But to my way of thinking, my generosity has nothing to do with my waiter's performance. It's part of who I am, and I don't want to waste my life rationalizing why I didn't live up to my own personal standards. I'd rather stand before my Maker at the end of life and explain why I over tipped, rather than why I left too little!

Plus, consider this: how can leaving a paltry tip, or (worse) no tip, inspire anyone?

Finally, whenever you can, exercise your generosity in anonymity. I've been chased out of restaurants and thanked profusely for a large tip; and sure, it makes me feel good. But I don't want to get addicted to that gratitude, that praise. If I get used to being praised for my generosity, there's a danger that I'll act generously just to get the applause, and then - well, that's not my definition of generosity. A truly generous spirit gives without expecting anything in return, including praise and gratitude. And it's that spirit I hope to cultivate within myself. It keeps me inspired, and without my own inspiration I can never inspire others.

You can think of many good reasons why you don't "need" to do the things I've described here. And you're absolutely right. You will find none of these things in your job description. You could do all this stuff for a year and still not get a bonus. If you can't bring yourself to do these generous acts of kindness with a genuine spirit, by all means, don't do them! No one likes a fake. But consider this: every minute of every day, there are people out there looking for inspiration. They're looking for someone to lead them, to inspire them to wonderful accomplishments both great and small. You're right: you don't have to perpetrate these acts of kindness; but if you don't, maybe you - like a handful of my hardest clients - are not the person they're looking for.

Here's hoping, though, and for your own sake, that you are.

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