Sometimes when we think of leaders who’ve inspired us, their achievements can inspire awe to such an extent we can talk ourselves into a small, dark corner of feeling inadequate. Don’t give up! Because 1: you’re not alone and 2: it doesn’t have to be like that.
Try this instead. Here’s an exercise we do in my ‘How to develop your leadership style’ workshop. Think of leaders who’ve inspired you – they may be famous people, celebrities, performers, captains of winning sports teams and so on, or they may be leaders you encounter in your everyday work or your personal life. They may be living or no longer with us. They may even be works of fiction. Brainstorm the names of the people who’ve inspired you.
Note down what qualities these leaders have or had that makes them stand out for you – in a good way (well, usually in a good way – sometimes our inspirational leaders are imperfect, so be choosy). Maybe they are kind, or inspirational in some way, or charismatic. See if you can identify at least three qualities for each leader. Stick with it; this is the point when we can often start to feel somewhat dwarfed by their brilliance. That’s because we haven’t identified how these qualities or attributes show up as behaviours – with the result that they’re too vague and/or removed from us to seem achievable.
Next, for each quality or attribute you’ve listed, think of what these leaders actually do that gets you thinking ‘she’s so charismatic’ or ‘he’s wonderfully kind’ and so on. Study them in more detail. What exactly do they do? What actions do they take? What do they say and how do they say it? Maybe they ‘speak up for what they believe’ or ‘take time to say Thank You’. Perhaps they gave great speeches or remember people’s names. Some of these behaviours may seem daunting to you now, but I’m willing to bet not all of them will be.
Choose just two or three behaviours from your list of inspirational leaders and work out how you’ll try them on for size yourself in the next few hours, day or week. You can try them out and when you have, reflect on how your experiment went. What did you notice? How did you feel? How did other people respond? Did the behaviour feel authentic, true to you? What worked well for you when you tried this out? What can you do more or less of next time you try?
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If you’d like to find out more about this workshop, please get in touch.
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