When we think of inspiring people and leading with greatness, the image we conjure might be a blue-faced Braveheart bellowing, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” or perhaps a more subdued yet still iconic “I have a dream” message from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While both are excellent examples of rousing and charismatic speeches, this is only one method by which to inspire and motivate other people. There are countless others which require less bravado, but no less heart.

I recently attended the Global Leadership Summit, where faith-based thought leaders from around the world offered a unique blend of vision, inspiration, and practical skills for influencers. From a diverse pool of presenters, a common theme emerged: Purpose. Everyone, regardless of industry or job title, strives for meaningful contribution in their work. Money will always be a significant motivating factor for employees, but it is not the ONLY reason individuals wake up and go to work each morning. We all want to make an impact on this world. Whether CEO of a billion-dollar corporation or janitor at a local elementary school, every profession serves a purpose and everyone deserves to know they are appreciated for their contributions.

The method by which we demonstrate our appreciation is less important than the act of acknowledgment. Employees who report feeling inspired perform twice as well as those who respond that they simply feel satisfied in their role. Some leaders do a phenomenal job of showing how THEY are important but great leaders make YOU feel important. Most individuals in the workplace have two subconscious questions for their supervisors which, if answered correctly, can inspire greatness.

Where are you taking me?

How are you treating me?

Great leaders provide a roadmap towards success through their actions. They are unconcerned with popularity, preferring instead to earn respect from peers and subordinates. Impressive leadership entails humility and a willingness to announce, “I do not know everything. I make mistakes. I have a lot to learn.”  Great leaders make their people feel valued, inspired and empowered. The very best leaders show appreciation, not just with a paycheck, but with encouragement, affirmation, and feedback.

It is important to remember that good employees do not leave jobs, they leave ineffective managers or managers who they perceive do not value them. On the other hand, leaders whose teams will follow them over a cliff exude optimism, humility, consistency, and follow through; these leaders genuinely care about their team. A leader who loves people is worth her weight in gold. (Spoiler: You cannot pretend to care.) When polled, workers indicated they prefer a superior who is centered, secure, stable, confident, fully engaged, and guided by values. Interestingly, it matters not whether the leader’s personal values align with the staff, simply that they have principles to which they adhere and can be held accountable.

How can you begin today and become a greater leader in your organization?

For starters, take time to vocalize to your team that you appreciate each and every one of them. Grand gestures are fun, like a lunch meeting or company outing, but a simple pat on the back and genuine “Thank you” can also go a very long way. Explain to your staff the PURPOSE of your company, not just what you do, but why you do it. Take the time to LISTEN when your people talk to you and ask questions that indicate you care. This is a big one – ACTUALLY CARE! Where are you taking them? How are you treating them? Figure it out and make it an appealing destination with an enjoyable ride.

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