Over three decades or so I’ve been involved with more than a dozen businesses. All but one has been extremely successful*. The key and consistent factor to their success is leadership that inspires the teams to strive for excellence.
An inspirational leader is the catalyst for creativity and innovation. Inspirational leaders don’t just point the way, they transform their own organisation and that of the people who see their vision and get on board.
If you can inspire those around you to share an exciting vision of success, they stop trying to chase immediate rewards and start thinking about building something that lasts. They make meaningful changes to the lives of their customers, their colleagues and themselves.
Motivation lasts as long as the incentive; inspiration lasts a lifetime.
Over the years I’ve developed a model that encompasses the elements of inspired leadership. It works in every environment – my son Matt Gaskell and I used it during our world record breaking Atlantic row. How we approached this special challenge is described in my book ‘Catching Giants’.
There are three key parts to the model – Commit, Connect, Create. However, it’s where these elements overlap that the magic happens.
Achieving an extraordinary result begins with an absolute commitment to your vision of success and your ability to inspire your team to share that commitment and transform the dream into reality.
Real commitment comes from the gut, it’s a passion. You can’t be mostly committed – it’s like parachuting, you are either out of the plane or you’re not!
Dare to dream: Change the definition of success by creating an inspiring vision of what it will look like when you achieve it. This is not a numerical measure – this is a picture of what your business will be like when your vision is delivered. Do not limit your imagination. Dream big.
Build belief: Invite your team to forget the numbers and share an exciting journey to success. Make it exciting. Ambition will be multiplied many-fold by a powerful vision.
Challenge: Switch on positive feelings by provoking team members with the possibilities of what they can achieve as part of the team. How good do you want to be?
Make the impossible possible: Create a powerful plan and share it with your team then break the impossible dream down into stages which are possible. Through innovation, teamwork and discipline anything is possible – remove limitations.
Confront the F word: Conquer fear by identifying the negative self-talk, misunderstandings and concerns that will shoot achievement in the foot before it even starts. Address the issues openly. Help people to adopt a different way of thinking, let them know that it will not be a smooth road, recognise that the bumps are part of the journey but assure the team that together they will find a way to overcome any challenge.
Everyone in the business needs to find and value their own role in creating change. They need to make the connection with the vision and see their role in achieving it. Make the plan visible. Share it and discuss it openly.
Begin at the end: Connect your vision to how you behave as a team by describing your vision of success from every possible angle. Start there and work back to where you are now. Let the team see the line, invite them to imagine how exciting the journey will be.
Make a simple plan: Focus only on the projects and priorities that will bring your vision to life. Be ruthless is where you apply your energy. Instil urgency with a 1,000 day plan – measure progress every day.
Produce genius: Nobody is expected to be a genius – but your team will have creativity that even they didn’t know they had. Create an environment where bright ideas flourish. Combine those sparks of genius to create a complete genius of a team.
Become better first – then bigger: Quality comes before profit. This is where world class teams and organisations are created. Get better and bigger will come.
Be in command – and out of control: Lead and inspire without micro-managing. The leader must be on the business, not in the business. Encourage the team to make decisions. Trust your sense of shared purpose.
The magic happens in a creative environment. When your team is challenged, united and happy with their work – regardless of how big or complex the task. That needs a culture of continuous change and innovation – throughout the organisation.
Have fun: Build a culture where people enjoy their work; emphasise the importance of integrity, fairness and achievement. Team members best work can never be taken, it can only ever be given. It will be freely given when they feel part of something exceptional.
No ‘only a …’: Avoid hierarchical structures where people are diminished by their status in the pecking order. Value everyone’s contribution and expect and encourage as much from the most junior members as from the seniors.
Catch in; not catch out: Inspire positivity, learning and a can-do attitude by praising achievement (even small ones) rather than noticing when something goes wrong. The most powerful leadership words are ‘thank you’ so use them often.
Sustain success: Create change that lasts and enjoy achievements delivered by building for the future. Short cuts produce short term fixes, not long term success. Always aim to build a solid foundation. This provides a solid base for the team to strive and develop from.
And always remember, leaders make mistakes – no one is superhuman. If you aren’t making mistakes then you aren’t pushing hard enough or fast enough. Give your team the freedom and permission to provide feedback – and listen to it. The most exciting and fastest progress is made in an environment of positive learning, shared responsibility and collective success.
*The one that went wrong was a clear case of poor and ultimately fraudulent leadership. It was a painful lesson for everyone. We learned from it, restructured the business under another name and, after a lot of hard work, proudly delivered a big success.