We have long observed that teams who want to — rather than just think they have to — follow their leaders are more productive, more loyal to the organization and more committed to its mission. And a growing number of scientific studies back up our observations.
Turns out, there’s actually a basis in brain chemistry and how it reacts to emotional triggers. People don’t respond as well to leaders who focus on command and control, or even social skills. Their energy and enthusiasm skyrocket when they are inspired by their leader.
Here are seven keys to being an inspirational leader and getting the best out of your team.
Model the Ideal
It has been said of great generals throughout history that they made a point of faring exactly the same as their troops. Whether it was fighting in the thick of the battle or sharing out food rations, the soldiers saw that their leader did not take any special privileges.
In the same way, an inspirational leader in the workplace leads by example. If they are expected to stay late, the leader stays later. If their objective is to go the extra mile for customers, their leader goes two extra miles.
You’ve probably heard pro sports coaches saying, after a loss, “We didn’t do [fill in the blank] right.” They never blame an individual team member for a mistake or sub-par performance. The team as a whole shares responsibility for outcomes.
In the workplace, the team leader also has the ultimate responsibility for the team’s actions. The inspirational leader never throws someone under the bus, whether to a customer or a superior. Instead, they work with the team to correct the problem and prevent it in the future.
On the other side of the coin, inspirational leaders don’t take all the credit for the team’s or individual member’s work; this practice is guaranteed to lose the team’s trust, respect and motivation. Receiving due rewards for accomplishments creates a successful, ambitious team.
The only way to earn respect from the team is to give respect to them first. This means listening to their concerns, treating everyone equally, explaining decisions (not just dictating them), and trusting each team member to do their job without being micromanaged.
Be Open to Feedback
The inspirational leader maintains an open door and invites opinions from the team. More must be done to execute this policy than simply announcing it. Scheduled team meetings or one-on-one discussions help ensure that it doesn’t fall by the wayside in the rush of everyday business.
Feedback is the leader’s most valuable tool for future improvements, whether to their own management style or the team’s workflows. This leader keep an opens mind to any and all criticism, gives it honest consideration and hunts for hidden gems.
This doesn’t mean being rigid or inflexible. It does mean that the leader’s (and organization’s) expectations from the team don’t change from one day to the next. The inspirational leader is not influenced by fads, whims or favoritism. Team members clearly understand what is required of them, as well as the consequences of both failure and success.
Take Responsibility for Mistakes
The inspirational leader admits when they’re wrong. Contrary to what many think, this honesty will increase the team’s respect, not lose it. In addition, the team is more likely to rally round and help fix the problem than they would be if their leader tried to deny everything.
These seven qualities in a team leader create an inspired response in the minds of the team members. They want to follow this leader, and give their utmost to be part of this team. The result is that every member of the team exceeds their own expectations.