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The derivation of the word "inspiration" is to be "in spirit." All great leaders know to be inspirational they themselves need to operate from a place of spirit; and they need to be able to get their people to come from the same place.
So what does "in spirit" mean? Spiritual energy comes from knowing yourself, your core of greatness, the purpose for your existence and doing something bigger than yourself; something really worthwhile. It provides the spring in the foot and the gleam in the eye. It is the spark which if created can turn an average team into a great team capable of extraordinary feats. Liberate the spirit and you have helped the person know who they are, leave a legacy and provide meaning to their life.
Inspirational leaders nourish the whole person: the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. Or as I like to say: body (more income), head (more learning), heart (more belonging) and soul (more meaning). Each level is deeper and more powerful. Of the four levels soul is the most powerful. This is why inspirational leaders are 'soul proprietors.
Most managers stop at the body level; on the external, physical world, thinking about results, structure, technology and processes. But the physical world is just the manifestation of the internal world. By the time you see it, it's too late to change it. Real external change happens because of changes in the internal world of thoughts, emotions, beliefs and dreams.
To build goose-bump-type energy in their people inspirational leaders don't stop at the body and head. They know, to give extraordinary results, their people need to give gifts of their heart and soul.
People have gifts to give at four levels. In reverse order of powerfulness, these are: Body, Head, Heart and Soul.
This is physical energy including health, safety and security. Although body is the least important area, it is important because the body needs to be satisfied before people will give gifts from their head, heart or soul. Reach the body and you have helped the person become richer, safer and more secure. However, even at the physical level many organisations fail hopelessly. Their key business transaction: the exchange of time for money is a thin and mean incentive. Few managers teach their people how to renew their energy through relaxation, focus, exercise, breathing and eating.
This is mental energy or brainpower. Reach the head and you have helped the person become wiser and more knowledgeable. Most organisations operate on a 'needs to know' basis and even when they provide information, they deliver it in only one way. Inspirational leaders know that people learn in different ways and want to know far more than most managers think. Also, when people are trusted with extra information it gives context and meaning to their work. It's about understanding that people are like 'learning machines'. They love to explore. They love to play. They don't like to be boxed in. So inspirational leaders think seriously about how they structure work; knowing project teams are far more liberating than jobs.
This is emotional energy. It comes from belonging, esteem and knowing that you fit with the values and culture. When inspirational leaders reach the heart they help the person's sense of belonging, connectedness, reputation, self worth and respect. Inspirational leaders know about the importance of bringing people together, social activities, common tearooms, stories, deep conversations, trust and being face-to-face. They boost the dignity and confidence from top to bottom by helping each person discover their core of greatness, then reorganise the work so it uses these cores of greatness.
Our basic human need is to connect. Evolutionarily, the worst punishment was to be banished from the tribe, yet this is the way many organisations make their people feel. People are treated like spare parts and squeezed into set boxes (jobs) even if they don't fit. Even worse, often when new managers are appointed, the first thing they do is to make themselves feel important and their people worthless, by getting everyone to reapply for their positions.
In most organisations, soul is the biggest desert. In my experience even good managers miss out at this level. Inspirational leaders work to help people understand who they are and why they exist, then they help people use this understanding to make the organisation stronger. They also help people to think about how the work they do adds value to the world. The key comes from constantly discussing the meaning of their work and tying it to a higher purpose. Nearly everybody wants to be part of something that is bigger than themselves. Like the Porirua gravediggers, they want to make the world a better place. They want to leave a legacy. Talk in these terms and real energy multiplies.
In their report, "A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America", Ian Mitroff, a professor at the University of Southern California, and Elizabeth A. Denton, an organisational consultant, write that employees hunger to bring their spiritual values, their whole person and not just their (left) brain to work. They also found that companies that acknowledged spiritual values and that aligned them with corporate ones, outperformed companies that didn't.
We all have the ability to access the spiritual level, but, most people don't do it. Either they don't believe they are capable of it, or they don't believe in their people enough. Access to the soul is surprisingly simple both for individuals working on their own and for groups working together. All you need is a belief that you and your people are capable of more than they are giving and a process to get you started.
I think inspirational leaders are "Soul Proprietors." They manage themselves and they manage their people at the spiritual level. They inspire greatness in others. Their people achieve more than they thought they were capable of achieving. Customers and Boards can't help but see the difference, even if they don't understand how it was achieved.
Here is my challenge: rate yourself (or your manager) 1 to 10 at each level, where 1 is about as bad as you can be and 10 is outstanding: Body (1-10) Head (1-10) Heart (1-10) Soul (1-10)
If you got a 10 in all four levels please let me know because you are a Soul Proprietor and I'd like to shake your hand and add you to our list of favourite managers.
I'm sure soul is the biggest uder-tapped resource in most organisations. Please send me your thoughts.
Virtual Group Business Consultants
free phone: 0800 4 virtual or +644 570 0727 or Skype Bruce.Holland
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Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills.