Your organization may be one among thousands that has adopted the term “leader” for various levels of good ol’ fashioned “manager.” If so, they’ve probably diluted the entire concept of leadership, and probably to your detriment. A lack of inspiration in your workplace is one of the dead giveaways. In this week’s podcast, I’ll show you how to awaken YOUR inner leader.
I was listening to As It Happens on CBC Radio last week when they gave free self-promotion time to Canada’s answer to Donald Trump, namely reality TV star, Kevin O’Leary. This is the same Kevin O’Leary about whom the Globe and Mail observed, “He’s not a billionaire. He plays one on TV.” O’Leary was on his usual hobby-horse about how Rachel Notley in Alberta, and Justin Trudeau in Ottawa are not fit to lead their respective jurisdictions. In promoting himself as a candidate for leadership of the post-Harper Conservative party and would-be, one-day Prime Minister of Canada in the Trump mold, O’Leary proclaimed that what Alberta and Canada (not to mention Ontario) needed was a good business manager at the helm (a criterion which, according to the Globe article, would actually exclude him).
But this got me thinking: Does a province, a state, or a country actually need a good manager in the premiership, governor’s mansion, the White House, 10 Downing Street, or 24 Sussex Drive? Or, do we actually need something else as the political head of our citizenry? For that matter, what does your organization need: a good manager or an effective leader—and what’s the difference?
Here’s a key distinction between the two: Managers motivate. Leaders inspire. Managers find ways to encourage people to do the work they’re required to do in the way they’re expected to do it. Motivation in the management context typically means bringing extrinsic motivators to bear; in other words, a combination of encouragements and threats (mostly tacit and implicit threats) that enable a manager to control his or her workforce. And that’s the important idea here: Managers Motivate for Control.
Leaders, on the other hand, find ways to ignite the passion and drive within people, to activate intrinsic motivators that lead people to excel. Inspiration causes people to go above and beyond what would normally be expected, to discover innovation amidst the mundane and routine, to achieve breakthrough in the face of breakdown. In contrast to managers, Leaders Inspire for Excellence. When we think inspiration, we think Jack Kennedy. When we think motivation – especially of the carrot and stick variety – we think Jack Welch.
In civic life, citizens and businesses alike rarely need motivation. They need many things that governments can provide, but motivation isn’t among them. Governments are often most effective as managers when they remove impediments, which is distinctly different from creating motivation. But elect an inspirational leader who lives true to what she or he espouses—watch all sorts of good and exciting and aspirational things happen to that community and society.
So, if inspiration is the heart of leadership, how can you awaken your inner leader to ignite your career and achieve your aspirations? There are three simple components. First: enumerate and explicitly articulate your unique set of Signature Strengths. These are the aspects of your character that you call on regularly as strategic and tactical tools that have worked for you time and again. Second: live true to your Core Values—those aspects that are so important to you that when they are violated you are moved almost to a violent response, and when they are activated you literally feel the energy and passion flowing through you. Finally: create the trajectory of your life and career with a Mindful Intention towards your aspirational self—You, enacting and living as Your Best Self. Signature Strengths, powered by Core Values, navigating towards Mindful Intention will fill you with inspiration, and awaken the leader within.