Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Great Leadership Requires Inspiration, III

School of Inspired Leadership buildingSchool of Inspired Leadership Building - Image via WikipediaBy Michael Hume

Where Do You Think Inspiration Ultimately Comes From?

Inspirational leadership - or more of it, anyway - is the goal of many of my coaching clients.

Increasingly, leaders recognize that command-and-control isn't enough to get the job done these days, when a generation of their teammates are more interested in "having" a job than in "doing" the job the leader remembers signing up for years ago. So, since inspirational leadership requires being an inspired person, we've been talking about how to become more personally inspired.

Without taking you to church (which I promise not to do), we should acknowledge that you can't really have a frank discussion about inspiration without bringing up the fact that the word literally means to infuse yourself with "spirit."

Believe whatever you want, and I have no interest in trying to convert you or get you to believe what I believe. But I think you can't honestly be inspired without at least a small dose of what most folks would call "God."

Is it really God? Look, I don't pretend to be an expert in spiritual matters. Maybe it's God ... or the "Holy" spirit, or divine light, or cosmic truth, or whatever. Put your own label on it. But whatever it is that causes you to be truly inspired, I'm gonna call it the spirit of God.

In fact, the presence or absence of such a spirit is my yardstick for determining whether or not a person - including myself - is actually inspired. I can't tell from your manner - you might just be a happy, energetic person (lucky you!).

I can't tell by your plans and dreams, or by how well you run your business or execute against your personal mission - you might be motivated, very motivated, but still not what I'd call truly "inspired."

I can't tell by your work product - I've written some good songs, for instance, that were the product of talent ... but fewer that combined that talent with true inspiration. I can't even tell by your impact on others - it may be your inspirational leadership, but your team might be doing inspired things more because of what's in them than because of anything you've contributed.

But if you're consistently delivering all those things - an upbeat and positive manner, motivated performance, excellent work products, and fired-up teams - I'm gonna bet God has decided to honor the work you did to make yourself ready for inspiration.

Earlier in this series I talked about how you can make your inner ground more fertile for the growth of inspiration. The first installment discussed developing the art of appreciation as a way to plant seeds of inspiration. The second went on to talk about habits and behaviors that could be used to cultivate your inner garden. But, like physical flowers, inspiration can't be fully controlled in a physical sense.

One look at my hanging garden of flowers this past summer would "prove" this point - all twelve planters received seeds, good soil, sunlight, and regular watering. All were equally exposed to wind, and birds, and other things that challenge flowering plants. But all dozen did not equally blossom!

Can you see the same effect in your work? You might believe, even correctly, that you've put equal time, energy, and attention into each of your projects. You might even be able to rationalize that their unequal outcomes were due to predictable causes beyond your control. But really, be honest: couldn't mercurial inspiration be behind at least some of what makes some endeavors successful and others, not-so-much?

I've had clients who've told me they wanted to be more inspirational leaders, but showed me that they wanted (perhaps above all else) to cling to a self-image of a supreme brain ruled only by logic and thought. There must be some sort of recipe, or equation, or secret formula that could be skillfully applied to bring them inspiration - and inspirational leadership.

Frankly, the most successful such leaders eventually come to a realization that no such formula exists, and that their automaton smart-thinker self image isn't really going to serve them well when they endeavor to be more inspirational leaders.

As I say, you believe what you want. Even if there's no such thing as God, like some of my clients have asserted, it's still a good idea to plant the seeds and cultivate the garden of inspiration. But if you are doing all those things, and your honest self-appraisal is that you're doing your level best at them, you might want to reconsider your reasons for not believing in God (or whatever you call the Author of true inspiration).

As your coach, I wouldn't try to bring you to Jesus, but I'd sure advise you that you'll only get so far toward inspirational leadership if you insist on traveling only the path of pure logic.

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.

Michael and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael's web site at

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