Inspiring or Inspired?

This week I spoke about leading change in challenging times to a group of child welfare professionals. At the end of the session I touched base with a leader who had been focused on a difficult challenge. Before she said goodbye, she stated confidently that she was going to refocus her energy and push local government and law enforcement officials to address the growing problem of heroin abuse in her Southeast Indiana community. Wow. Her passion, and the potential impact of it impressed and humbled me.

I thanked her for working to make her community better. She said, “You inspired me.”

Again, wow! This may sound funny coming from someone who facilitates leadership workshops for a living, but it’s not a natural state for me to want to be inspiring. I want people to see their own potential, and I want others to be inspired. Frankly, a huge part of the time that I spend facilitating is talking about leaders who inspire others and sharing ways that they do that. But, I – as a person who tends toward introversion – don’t feel that I have to be in front and center, a star or an inspiration to others. I don’t aspire to give rousing performances for an audience. I’d prefer that people “get it” without me putting myself out there.

That said, one of my core beliefs is that people want to contribute to something greater than themselves. I do want to help leaders help others to get there – to feel that they are a part of something bigger. To be inspired by that bigger picture. So…

…that means that I do indeed have to work at inspiring others.

What I’ve learned from @Jim_Kouzes and Barry Posner (@bzposner), of The Leadership Challenge fame, is that we inspire others when we’re inspired. While the stereotypical “charismatic leader” may be what we have in our minds as the only one who is capable of inspiring people, we each have a passion that we can tap into in order to enlist people in what we believe can make a difference in the world.

Charisma isn’t limited to the great leaders like Martin Luther King. You show charisma when you talk about something that you truly care about – be it something at work that you care about, a political issue, your children, or even a favorite vacation. It’s about speaking – with conviction – about the meaning of your work, your world. 

What are you passionate about…today?

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