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 an inspirational leader’s six most influential traits.
#1 An inspirational leader thinks BIG
If you don’t start by dreaming BIG, you’ll never 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 dreams into reality.
In 1980, Bill Gates gave Microsoft, the company he co-founded, a 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 can 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 can head off at the pass the constant threat of direction changes that prevent others from 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 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 main thing is simplicity, which has informed the development of every 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 mindset that enables winners to be sure they will 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 mindset 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 is a Chinese business magnate, investor, philanthropist, co-founder, and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate. As of August 2018, he is one of China’s wealthiest men, with a net worth of US$38.6 billion and one of the wealthiest people in the world. But it wasn’t always this way. It took him four years to pass the Chinese college entrance exam. After graduating, he applied for 30 jobs and was rejected by all. He went to Harvard Business School ten times and got left 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 ensure it doesn’t happen to them.
What is this law?
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 day’s demands 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 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 in 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 is 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 and come off the rails; if you don’t, it begs whether you’re 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 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 the ‘glue’ binds all the other characteristics together. Or you could think of it as the hub.
Authenticity is about being the real deal. It’s about being 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 to remain true to who you are and what you stand for.
Oprah Winfrey is the wealthiest woman in the entertainment industry, the first African-American woman billionaire, and the most outstanding black philanthropist in American history. Serial entrepreneur, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, honorary doctorate 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 six traits of an inspirational leader part of your DNA?