What first comes to mind when you hear the word “leader?”
Do you think of a very strong personality, like Donald Trump? Maybe you think of a religious icon, like Pope Francis. Or maybe you think about Warren Buffet, very much a leader because he’s consistently the best at what he does.
Think about the leaders that have been a part of your life. Parents, coaches, teachers, and bosses come to mind. Some of them you couldn’t wait to spend time with. Others you might have dreaded every minute in their presence.
Why were you so excited by some and not others? Jonathan Farrington gives the answer when he says:
“[Leadership is] the ability to inspire willing action.”
Think about it. For some of those past authority figures, you’d do anything for them. If they told you to jump off a cliff, you’d go right ahead and do that.
With others, you noticed yourself reacting with anger, frustration, or fear the moment you were asked to do something. Sure, you did it because they had authority over you, but only while grinding your teeth.
How to Inspire Willing Action Within Your Employees
This could actually be an entire whitepaper of its own, but here’s a few simple tips to get you started:
1. Walk your own talk. Ever been a part of a company that talks about being more efficient and working long hours…only to see the leadership do the exact opposite? What kind of impression did that make on you?
You’ve experienced this somewhere before, whether at work, school, or in your family life. People always pay more attention to what you do than what you say.
2. Allow mistakes and learning. If you have a rigid corporate structure that punishes mistakes, your employees get stressed out, focus on not failing, and end up making more mistakes. Don’t take a punitive approach to mistakes.
Instead of having an angry conversation, have a calm conversation about what happened, what your employee was thinking, and what can be done better in the future.
3. Encourage your employees. Some employees can handle consistently high stress and pressure to perform. But most can’t. They need to replenish their emotional resources – and part of that happens when you praise what they do well.
Give as much as possible in this sense, and your employee’s performance will skyrocket.
4. Be vulnerable. You might think the reverse is true – you must appear nearly invincible. But, Forbes contributor David Williams, a successful serial entrepreneur, disagrees.
He recalls a situation where he and his executive team were $500,000 short of the funding their business needed to buy back a previous company. He recalls:
“It took courage beyond measure for us to have that discussion – but we emerged together from that situation with increased strength. In fact, that month was our highest revenue month in the company’s history to that date…Admitting and facing my vulnerability and even helplessness in that situation took all the courage I could muster.”
Leaders that inspire willing action consistently have teams that outperform those that don’t have this skill.
What can you do to inspire more willing action among your sales team today?