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August 01, 2017 Tuesday 12:22:49 PM IST

What Inspiring Leaders Do


Forget the conventional leadership image of a buttoned-up individual in a black suit moving around with a hefty briefcase.


Nowadays, standout leaders come in all shapes and sizes. He could be a blue jeans-clad marketing graduate, running a leading e-commerce firm out of his dorm room. He might be the next salt-and-pepper-haired, barefoot Steve Jobs, presenting a  revolutionary new device at a major industry conference.


Research across the globe indicates that what really matters is the ability of the leaders to create interest, empower their people, infuse confidence and be inspiring to the people around them. What makes a leader inspirational?

Inspirational Leadership is about motivating and creating a sense of purpose among the followers. It involves energizing people to strive towards an exciting vision of the future by embracing core organizational values in all aspects of their work.




According to Forbes, world leaders like the late Nelson Mandela had so much influence because of the moral authority he had. This is evident from the movie about Mandela, Invictus.


It tells the story of Mandela’s one and only term as South African president, when he engages the nation’s celebrated rugby team, the Springboks, on a mission to conquer the 1995 Rugby World Cup and, through that, to initiate the healing of that apartheid-torn country.


Before the event, the sports  committee in the post-apartheid, newly Black-led South Africa requested Mandela to alter the name and colours of the almost all-White Springboks to something more resembling Black-African

identity. But Mandela refused. He reminds his Black sports officials that a crucial part of making Whites feel at home in a Black-led South Africa was not removing all their valued symbols. “That is selfish thinking,” Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, says in the movie. “It does not serve the country.”


Then, speaking of South Africa’s Whites, Mandela adds, “Through restraint and generosity, we have to surprise them.” Inspirational leaders generate moral authority by allowing to challenge their own base at times, and not just the other side. It is easy to lead by informing your own base what it wants to hear, giving things away and when things are going well. But what’s really tough is getting your people to do something big and hard and together. And the only way to do that is by not only requesting the other side’s base to do something hard -- in South Africa’s case, asking Whites to yield power to Black majority rule -- but to dare your own base to do hard things, too: in South Africa’s case, asking Blacks to avoid vengeance after so many years of ruthless, entrenched, White rule.




Leaders stick to the promises they make, which makes them fair, reliable and dependable. Obama kept his  campaign commitment to providing great transparency and adherence to ethics and influence information in 2012. That spring, the administration disclosed, an all-inclusive website of White House guest registers, Office of Government Ethics travel records, Justice Department foreign agents’ registration statistics, and much more.


Also, Obama acted on his commitment to end torture two days after assuming office. His comprehensive executive order called for humane treatment of prisoners and explicitly nullified interpretations of federal law issued by George W. Bush’s Justice Department. The order also banned the CIA from using detention centres and shaped an exclusive team to deal with high value alleged terrorists using humane techniques.


While no directive is foolproof, supporters of human and civil rights groups emphasised that Obama’s actions had been strong. Apart from that, revamping the regulation of the financial system was one of Obama’s signature objectives in the wake of the global recession he was inheriting. A year after he revealed a wide framework for financial guidelines, Congress approved the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. It formed agencies to safeguard consumers and monitor the U.S. economy.


The law also demanded an audit of the Federal Reserve, called for a study on likely conflicts of interest in credit rating organizations, and gave the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation the power to liquidate large deteriorating financial corporations.




Inspirational leaders give much importance to encouraging potential. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of fast-growing online shoe and apparel retailer He is immensely popular to the extent that he has 1.7 million followers on his Twitter site and has been featured more than once on Fortune magazine’s annual ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list. Since taking over as CEO, he was focusing on doing whatever it takes to keep his employees, customers, and vendors happy -- even if it might not seem to make the best business sense -- because his approach leads to returns in the end.


Once, he was asked by an interviewer, “What kind of goals do you help individuals achieve?”. “Almost anything,” he said. “The other day I worked with a young man who was keen to learn how to play guitar and a woman who always dreamt of writing a book.”


“What does that have to do with your firm?” he was asked. “It has everything to do with Zappos,” he replied.


Zappos has earned a reputation for exemplary customer service because it doesn’t consider employees as just cogs in a wheel. Employees are aware about the fact that Zappos’ leaders sincerely care about their wellbeing. It’s also one of the “happiest” places to work.


Drawing insight from Eastern philosophy, “If you want to change the way of being, you have to change the way  of doing.” Leaders can only change by displaying moral authority, staying committed and encouraging potential. As the nature of work grows progressively cooperative  and self-directed, inspiration can make the difference between teams that outperform and those that lag. Leadership systems work because they homer the intricacy of human relationships, foster authenticity and build a common platform for every person to make unique contributions. Organizations that tap into that influential combination will gain a competitive advantage that few can match.