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9 keys to being an Inspirational Leader

Source | The People Development Network : By Runa Bouius

I am fascinated by what it takes to be an extraordinary leader–an inspirational leader. I am fascinated by WHY some leaders seem to magically make a huge impact on the world while others do not  — Steve Jobs being one case in point, as he changed forever the lives of people and the world with his vision.  Let us ponder the question, “Are we all born leaders”? In a certain way I believe we are. We are ultimately leaders of our own lives and destinies. We become leaders of our families and communities, and many take on leadership positions in business. However, holding a leadership title does not guarantee that we have what it takes to inspire others and make a lasting positive impact. I recently came across a quote that speaks to this: “Leaders are not born. They are made. Who makes them? They make themselves.” ~ Peter Castenbaum, Corporate Mystic.

To me the foundation of inspiring others is to know WHY we do what we do. It is to have a dream, a vision that is bigger than us – often referred to as higher purpose. That is the WHY. The dream needs to be communicated through our belief that great value is being created and offered to the collective whole. A perfect example of this is Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech?  Simon Sinek speaks to this eloquently in his TED talk “How great leaders inspire action.”

A recent study done by the Center for Creative Leadership called The Challenges Leaders Face Around the World: More Similar than Different (see here) reveals that inspiring others is one of the six top challenges leaders struggle with. These findings support the theory that inspiring others is not an innate gift for most leaders, but needs to be learned and honed like any other leadership skill.

As a young entrepreneur and business leader in Iceland, I had to learn my leadership skills—including how to inspire others—while on the job. I found that leadership is a practice cultivated through a continuous process and intention. We need to refine our skills and aim for self-mastery while at the same time learning to let go of the need for perfection. One of the great inspirations on my leadership journey was Mahatma Gandhi. His famous quote, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” inspired me to make a commitment to myself to become a life-long learner of self-leadership that informs me when leading others. We have to start with ourselves first.  Thus I have learned through experimentation and cultivation of not only the traditional, tangible outer skills but also more importantly, the inner skills of empathy, acceptance, and self-awareness that transforms us into the very change and inspiration we want to ignite in others.

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