Do leaders need to be inspiring?
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Does the founding partner at a law firm need to be as inspiring as the executive director at an equally-large nonprofit?
The adjectives describing the type of leader we are have become critical. This three-part series reviews some common but different leadership descriptors and whether to embrace or ignore them. This article considers when and whether it is important to be an inspiring leader.
An inspiring leader motivates employees to accomplish, overcome and improve. But what does it take to be an inspiring leader and are those traits necessary across industries?
Bain Research identified 33 character traits of inspiring leaders that Forbes illustrates in this handy infographic. The traits are broken into four categories: developing inner resources, connecting with others, leading the team and setting the tone. And their research indicates that exceptional, inspiring leaders have at least four of the characteristics.
A review of the list and further Bain research indicates that even if we do not currently have such leadership characteristics, it is possible to learn them. Thus, we can become inspiring leaders if we are not already, but is that important in our sector?
While it can be easily argued that being flexible and a visionary with good followthrough are traits that would benefit leaders in any industry, being open, humble or focused on co-creation may not be as universal.
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So how do we determine whether our organization would benefit if we were more inspiring? We must consider the structure, focus and life-cycle phase of the company.
For example, open, collaborative environments need inspiring leaders to create a clear picture of the vision and direction of the organization and then lead by example to get everyone there. Similarly, organizations focused on causes, going through systemic change, geared around innovation or regularly facing challenges also benefit from having a leader who can inspire staff to follow wherever the path may lead.
In other words, it is not that it is ever bad to be an inspiring leader, it is just that some organizations need inspiring more than others.
Is the organization structured, hierarchical or static? Or is it a culture of change, uncertainty or innovation?
Stable organizations or organizations that benefit from consistency and structure may not necessarily benefit from an inspirational leader. Fluid organizations, on the other hand, that may only be consistent in their constant change or uncertainty benefit from an inspiring leader at the helm. When budgets are tight, change is imminent or creativity is required, inspiring leaders provide the ingenuity and perspective to motivate employees.
The bottom line is, while being an inspiring leader is rarely a bad thing, it is not always the most important thing for the business.
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