These central strategies can energise your team and ensure your business fulfils its potential
A mentor once told me that to inspire was to breathe life into someone or something. According to the Cambridge English dictionary, the definition of inspirational is ‘making you feel full of hope or encouraged’.
Becoming an inspirational leader in business is to do just that. To be someone who can touch, move and inspire people to greater heights, bringing to life a shared team spirit and motivating people to accomplish goals and tasks for the common good.
As someone who has been the co-founder of a franchise, the CEO of a $100 million group and a founder of a non-profit organisation that operated in three countries with a base of volunteers, in my experience becoming an inspirational leader is crucial to your success in any business.
And it absolutely takes something. In fact, it takes fulfilling these 10 key strategies.
1. Define your rallying call
Think about anyone you have ever been inspired by. They usually have some big goal or a big game they’re playing that’s larger than themselves and their business - something that calls the leader and the team into massive action over time.
So what’s your big game? Be clear about that and make it your rallying call for the business as a whole or for the year ahead. The first sale is always to yourself; does it inspire you? If yes, great and be sure it inspires and motivates your team too. It should be something you and your team are proud to be pursuing.
Building on that, it’s vital to have captured and articulated clearly what I call your intention, vision and mission.
Most people are familiar with a vision and mission statement. However, your intention is the key.
It answers the question: beyond money or the basics, why does your business exist? It’s your reason for being. It should inspire you, so you can share it and inspire others.
As a franchisor, I found most of our franchisees joined us because of our intention - they were inspired by it, wanted to be part of it and it gave them purpose beyond profits.
Your vision is about outlining your five or 10-year goals. Your mission outlines how you and your team are going to achieve the intention and vision over time. Once you’ve captured all of that, share it everywhere.
Overall, this should be an inspiring platform to lead from, to share and speak about, to drive your brand, to reference as you make key decisions and to share with your team and customers.
If you’re a franchisee, what’s the larger purpose of the franchise group that inspires you? Of course, you can and should create or personalise your own intention, vision and mission for your business to rally around.
2. Feel your way
Sometimes you have to feel your way through business. You have to be able to feel how your team is feeling, to feel how your clients are feeling and to feel the market itself.
Getting what your internal or external audience is feeling and then being able to respond appropriately is critical to being able to inspire those very people to take an action you intend. It’s what I call the ‘get it factor’ - you get what it’s like for them and set up responses, structures and wow factor processes to address their experience.
3. Be the positive light on the hill
Business leaders often think they have to have all the answers. For me that’s not true, but you do have to be the person who’s always holding the space and certainty of a positive future ahead.
People need to be led. People want to be led. People need hope and we all love certainty. Certainty at this time, depending on the type of business, its size and financial health and strategy, can be hard to deliver right now, but people can be and need to be certain of you. Certain that you will always, working with them and others, find a way. That in itself is inspiring.
4. Keep your perspective straight
Perspective is critical. Remember that business is a long game - it’s a marathon not a sprint. Where do we want to be in 10 years’ time? What do we want this business to look like? What will it be producing in financial returns?
What about lifestyle for you as the owner or the franchisee? And what impact and reach will the business have? What valuation would we want to hit by then? What does the future look like by 2030?
Get clear on that and as you’re making short-term decisions think about that long-term outcome. That long-term perspective is critical to making strong decisions as a leader and inspiring others.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. You have to be able to hold that long-term view, while you handle short-term needs.
5. Decide on your strategy
Your strategy is your plan for getting from where you are now to where you want to be in a given timeframe in the fastest, easiest possible and most profitable way.
Most business owners are too busy being busy to spend time on their strategy, yet it’s the key to exponential growth. You have to set your vision and then work backwards from that, looking for the leverage points in your business to fast track your results.
Leverage points can be hidden in plain sight in many businesses across how you do what you do, to average transaction values, conversion rates, client mix, marketing, sales processes, understanding the lifetime value of a customer and strategic hires and key team members being led on that journey by you.
6. Be vulnerable and authentic
While vulnerability is not a word many people associate with leadership, in my view it’s absolutely a part of it.
As a leader, despite beliefs to the contrary, you don’t have to have everything figured out. Authentically being open about what you don’t have an answer for or how something has impacted you or the business can actually deliver a greater connection with your team.
At the same time, you must be able to communicate your commitment to transform that area with their help. In fact, being vulnerable and authentic can mean your team steps up.
7. Clarify your leadership role
Some people see leadership as ‘doer-ship’ - the more I do, the better leader I am.
You’ll often hear these business owners say something like: “By the time I spend 20 minutes explaining how that could be done, I may as well have done it myself.”
That’s a huge mistake because every time you do that you miss the opportunity to train and develop that person and build better systems and processes.
Others associate leadership with power - being able to exert themselves and their will over others.
In my roles as a franchisor and a founder of a non-profit organisation, I believed the true role of leadership was to empower and develop great leaders around me. I thought of the business as healthy when I could walk in and see people demonstrating personal leadership.
If you want to be an inspiring leader, check your definition of leadership and gauge whether you’ve fallen into the trap of ‘doer-ship’ or if you’re leading by empowering others.
8. Understand that the buck stops with you
To be an inspiring leader, you have to take the view that the buck stops with you.
For example, as a franchisee it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s up to the franchisor to create everything you need to be successful. While the franchisor has key responsibilities, this thinking is a pathway to limited results.
As leaders, ultimately our results are our own. If you can own that, while it can sometimes feel daunting, it’s also liberating. Then do all you can to make your business work, inspire your team and produce the success you’re seeking.
9. Act like a leader
Identify three leaders who inspire you. These could be from any walk of life. They could be celebrities or a family member. The key is that they have to be a leader you’re inspired by.
Make a note of each person and the qualities you admire most about them. You’ll likely see a pattern of characteristics across the three you chose, so set about emulating them. When facing an opportunity or a challenge, ask yourself: what would a leader do? And then act from there. It’s an empowering way to build leadership muscle.
10. Recognise the beating heart of your business
How do you relate to your team?
I once had a general manager who said: “Leading this business is like running an adult day care centre.”
When I ask business owners what their biggest challenges are, they usually say cash flow and people. That is, they relate to their people as a problem most of the time.
As an inspiring leader, you need to relate to your team as the beating heart of your business. They are the people who make it all happen.
Instead of thinking of them as a problem or challenge, alter your perspective. Given people spend most of their waking hours at work, consider they’re giving you their life force, time, talents, thinking and strengths to fulfil your goal.
Your team are a gift that makes your life and business results possible. Relate to them like that and you’ll be a long way down the track of being an inspiring leader.
Ryll Burgin-Doyle is an author, keynote speaker and proven business and brand strategist.