We’ve been talking a lot about inspiration lately—both how to stoke the fire within yourself and how to pass that flame on to your employees. Inspiring your team members to bring their A-games is not only a critical, highly differentiating leadership skill, but one that a surprising number of corner-office types lack.
Case in point: in the process of conducting research for his book “Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power,” leadership consultant Eric Garton found that less than half of the study participants felt their leaders were inspiring or that they excelled at unlocking employee motivation. Even fewer felt that their leaders set strong examples with regard to engagement, company culture and commitment.
As revealed in a 2017 Bain & Company study, among the 33 essential qualities shared by inspiring leaders, the cornerstone quality—the one that employees valued above all others—was centeredness. In the study, it’s defined as “engaging all parts of the mind to become fully present.”
As a manager, there are myriad ways to demonstrate your “presence,” from how you conduct yourself in meetings to your proactivity in fostering employee growth. Of course, the way presence reveals itself for you personally will ultimately be part of the “secret sauce” that makes you who you are as a leader. But as leadership experts (and leaders ourselves), we always find it fascinating to see how other forward-thinking professionals interpret this essential—and very abstract—concept.
Leverage the undeniable power of human connection.
For Carol Kinsey Goman, leadership keynote speaker and author of “The Nonverbal Advantage: The Science and Secrets of Body Language at Work” and “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead,” demonstrating leadership presence is all about valuing social capital—the wealth or benefits that exist because of human relationships—over financial capital.
Goman’s simple recommendation around how to approach business conversations really struck a chord with us. “Enter each conversation,” she says, “with the goal of finding something that you can do for the other person. The minute you take the focus off promoting yourself and put it on assisting others, you dramatically improve your ability to connect.” It’s a simple intellectual shift that instantly puts your audience in a receptive frame of mind.
Understand the difference between confidence and charisma.
As an expert on body language in a professional setting, Goman also believes the way you hold yourself can have a dramatic impact on how you’re perceived. She says, “I’ve found that when I speak with a successful executive, I get the feeling that he or she is wonderful—but when I speak with a charismatic leader, I’m made to feel that I am wonderful!” The distinction, Goman says, lies in the difference between confidence and charisma.
Key non-verbal clues of confidence include standing tall, speaking loudly/clearly and taking up a lot of physical space. In a business setting, these cues express a certain level of status, power and prestige; they’re all part of comporting yourself as “the boss,” and they already may be a part of your unconscious non-verbal repertoire.
But charisma looks and feels different. These non-verbal cues are warm and welcoming: smiling, steady eye contact and open body postures, without crossed arms or legs. According to Goman, both confidence and charisma are critical cues to use on a daily basis, but charisma is especially helpful in dealing with subordinates.
In short: people may not always remember what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Don’t hesitate to express your “why.”
One of the benefits of being the boss is that you don’t really need to provide a reason for wanting a subordinate to complete a certain task or behave in a certain way. If they report to you, the mere request from you is technically reason enough. Occupying a position of power automatically gives you a certain amount of credibility, and you can work to increase your “credibility cache” by being consistently truthful, diplomatic and decisive in your business communications.
But according to recent Psychology Today study, simply expressing the reason you want something can have an astounding impact on how the requested task is received—and whether or not it is completed. In the study, simply adding the word “because” to each request instantly increased the requestor’s credibility, while also boosting total compliance by more than 40 person. Interestingly, what came after the word “because” didn’t have any measurable impact—the simple fact of being open with one’s “why” was enough.
If, as Garton suggests, fully half of business leaders don’t inspire their teams, that’s good news for people like you, who are already investing time and effort into building their leadership skills. The simple mindset shifts described in this post can help you get closer to your own leadership center. You might call it 360-degree inspiration: engaging and motivating your team, while inspiring confidence all the way to the top of the corporate food chain.
Daniels College of Business, Executive Education offers programs for leaders and managers in different stages of their careers. To learn more about each program and how to enroll, visit our Emerging Leaders Program, Denver Leadership Experience or High Performance Leadership program pages.