Building winning strategies requires inspirational leaders to create and define them, guide and shape their implementation, and win the hearts and minds of their people to deliver them with passion and commitment. Here’s my take on the 6 most powerful traits of an inspirational leader.
#1 An inspirational leader thinks BIG
If you don’t start out by dreaming BIG, you’re never going to move beyond mediocrity.
Set your bar high. Think BIG thoughts, and dream BIG dreams. Live your life as if all your dreams have already come true and challenge reality to catch up.
A common theme among inspirational leaders is that they set goals that are, to others, unattainably high, and then they have an uncanny ability to work out precisely how to turn their goals into reality.
Back in 1980 Bill Gates gave Microsoft, the company he cofounded, a very clear mission ‘A computer on every desk in every home, running Microsoft software.
Are you thinking BIG?
#2 An inspirational leader focuses on one thing
Inspirational leaders are able to galvanise their forces around one thing. They present that one thing as the North Star; the thing that makes them stand out above all others. In so doing, they are able to head off at the pass the constant threat of direction changes that prevents others from really achieving the highest levels of GREATNESS.
The list of businesses that have achieved extraordinary results through the power of one thing is endless. Those organisations of course have many products and services, but the inspirational leaders that run them never allow their people to forget the one thing that ultimately makes them great.
Focus on one thing
Apple’s one thing is simplicity which has informed the development of every single product. Apple has powered from one era to the next by the iPod, iTunes, iphone, ipad and now the iwatch, each of which, at its very soul, has the one thing that defines Apple.
What’s your one thing?
#3 An inspirational leader has a winning mentality
Winning mentality…the mind-set that enables winners to be absolutely certain they are going to achieve their goals.
To many it seems like an elusive concept; as if it’s too whimsical to possibly be that simple, yet again and again, we hear from successful people that their mind-set is the most potent delivery system in their arsenal.
It starts with a positive attitude. And the good news is that this is entirely achievable through determination.
Thinking positively is a conscious choice. Acting positively is a conscious choice. Reacting positively is a conscious choice.
Jack Ma, a Chinese business magnate, investor, philanthropist and co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate. As of August 2018, he is one of China’s richest men with a net worth of US$38.6 billion, as well as being one of the wealthiest people in the world. But it wasn’t always this way. He took four years to pass the Chinese college entrance exam. After graduating, he applied for 30 different jobs and got rejected by all. He applied ten times to Harvard Business School and got rejected each time. In 1995, he went to the US with his friends, discovered the Internet and ‘introduced’ it to China. As they say, the rest is history.
Do you have a winning mentality or are your challenges setting you back more than they should?
#4 An inspirational leader has an attitude of action
Inspirational leaders are people of action. They make stuff happen. They constantly push themselves to find better and faster ways to merge the present with the future, and realise their goals. They understand the ‘Law of Diminishing Intent’ and make sure it doesn’t happen to them.
What is this law?
It’s simply the longer you wait to implement a new idea or strategy, the less enthusiasm you will have for it. You’ve probably had that feeling of rushing out of a seminar or workshop, full of great ideas and then doing nothing with it.
Well, the demands of the day compete for your attention, and all your good intentions and personal promises for change get pushed to one side. The longer you put them off, the lower the probability you will ever actually fulfil them.
That’s how great ideas earn an untimely death, and you may find yourself one day in the frustrating position of discovering that your great idea has been done by someone else who is living the dream you should have led.
Attitude of action
Sara Blakely is an American billionaire businesswoman, and founder of Spanx, an American underwear maker. Forced to wear tights in the hot Floridian climate for her sales role, Blakely disliked the appearance of the seamed foot whilst wearing a skirt, and experimented by cutting off the feet of her tights.
At age 27, Blakely spent the next two years and $5,000 savings researching and developing her hosiery idea, using her credit card to purchase the “Spanx” trademark for US$150. She presented her idea to most of America’s hosiery mills and was turned away. She met with an American department store representative who agreed to sell her product in seven stores. Bloomingdales, Saks and Bergdorf Goodman soon followed. In November 2000, Oprah Winfrey named Spanx her “Favourite Thing”, leading to a significant rise in popularity and sales. In 2001, Blakely signed a contract with QVC, the home shopping channel, and sold 8,000 pairs in the first six minutes of operation.
Do you have an attitude of action?
#5 An inspirational leader is resilient
Resilience, an essential trait, especially in the face of failure. Even armed with your Attitude of ACTION and a reputation for making things happen, things will sometimes go wrong.
That’s life. You will make mistakes, you will come off the rails, and if you don’t, it begs the question whether you’re really pushing the boundaries of possibility.
Inspirational leaders aren’t immune from mistakes or runs of bad luck; what they have learned to do is recover quickly. They pick themselves up, bounce back, and refuse to carry any additional and unnecessary baggage from the experience.
Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, peace activist, and philanthropist. In 1962, Mandela was arrested and imprisoned for his anti-apartheid activities serving 27 years in prison. He became the President of South Africa in 1994. Upon his release Mandela, was often asked how he retained his friendly, polite, and relaxed demeanour while continuing his humanitarian efforts in the face of formidable opposition “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Are you failing fast, learning quickly and succeeding faster?
#6 An inspirational leader is authentic
This trait is one of the most important for me as it is the ‘glue’ that binds all the other traits together. Or you could think of it as the hub.
Authenticity is about being the real deal. It’s about being really clear on what you stand for, the values that drive your thinking, and the filters through which you define your behaviour. It’s about having an unwavering determination that no matter what happens you will never compromise your core values and beliefs; that you will remain true to who you are and what you stand for.
Oprah Winfrey, the wealthiest woman in the entertainment industry, the first African American woman billionaire and the greatest black philanthropist in American history. Serial entrepreneur, Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, honorary doctorates from Harvard and Duke, Author, publisher, and Oscar nominee. She found her voice sharing her rags-to-riches tale and that authenticity spurred her personal and professional success.
Are these 6 traits of an inspirational leader part of your DNA?
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