This is a guest post by John Gronski, Greencastle Alumni @MGGronski
On January 28, 1959 the Green Bay Packers signed Vince Lombardi to a five year contract. That year the team was motivated to reach a record of seven and five, its first winning season in eleven years. The next season Lombardi took the Packers to the NFL championship game that they lost. That was the last playoff game the Packers ever lost under Lombardi. The Packers were inspired to win five championships over the next seven years culminating with wins in the first two Super Bowls. Motivation could carry a team just so far; it takes inspirational leadership to transform an organization from a mediocre performer into a perennial winner.
The difference between motivation and inspiration is like the difference between creating an organizational climate and shaping an organizational culture. “Motivation” is based on providing an incentive to act in a certain way. “Inspiration” is about influencing and arousing feelings that result in actions likely to lead to long-lasting success. Stated another way, motivated troops will win a battle, while inspired troops will win a war; motivated players will win a game, while inspired players will win a championship; motivated workers will win a contract, while inspired workers will build a great company. A leader must have the ability to both motivate and to inspire, recognizing that motivation has a short-term effect, while inspiration is long-term.
In his classic book “Leadership”, James MacGregor Burns defined two fundamentally different forms of leadership. He called the two different forms of leadership transactional and transforming leadership. Transactional leadership is the use of positive reinforcement when employees do something right. Transforming leadership occurs when a leader raises a follower to a higher level of development. The concept of motivation is more transactional in its nature. We achieve an accomplishment and we will be rewarded in some way. Inspiration is more transforming in its nature and there is a sense of growing an organization into something exponentially better than it was in the past.
Wayne Dyer is a self-help author widely known for his best-selling book “Your Erroneous Zones”. He has been called an inspirational speaker rather than a motivational speaker. Dyer has made a distinction between the two stating, “If motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, inspiration is the reverse. An idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go”. Inspirational leaders have a way of creating an environment where ideas can sweep through an organization and carry it to greatness. Inspiration leaders also tend not to accept the status quo. George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, articulately stated this by saying, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man insists on the world adapting itself to him. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”. Similarly, Arnold Schwarzenegger said that to make progress leaders must be willing to break the rules; not break the law but break the rules. Inspirational leaders look at things differently than others do. While others may see obstacles and stop, inspirational leaders immediately begin to see ways around or through obstacles.
The distinction between motivation and inspiration is that motivation is extrinsic and has a reward as a driving force. Inspiration is a calling to work for something greater than oneself. Inspired followers are not focused on short-term rewards but rather gain fulfillment in knowing that they are on a path to achieving a greater purpose. Inspirational leaders have the ability to cultivate a strong inner calling in others and ignite a shared greater purpose that is persistent and long-lasting. A great example of how an inspirational leader can make a difference in the long-term is David Kelley, founder of the design firm Ideo. According to an article in “Fast Company” by Linda Tischler, Ideo under Kelley’s leadership won 346 design awards since 1991. Kelley coined the term “design thinking” and inspired his team to think of themselves as design thinkers, or collaborators, rather than as designers. This is an example of how an inspirational leader causes the organization to look at ordinary things in an extraordinary manner and achieve significant results. In Ideo’s case, the result is annual revenue of about $100 million.
By leading in a transactional way, using short terms rewards for short term results, a leader will see peaks and valleys associated with organizational performance. Conversely, a leader with the skill to inspire an organization will create an intrinsic desire among the employees in a company to achieve peak performance. When a leader creates an inspirational spark, and takes steps to keep it alive, an eternal flame will erupt. Performance peaks and valleys will disappear and be replaced with a band of excellence.
The difference between motivating and inspiring followers also manifests itself in the retention rate of desirable employees; those people that an organization would want to retain. A leader who focuses on motivating followers with salaries, position titles, or perks will find it difficult to retain those people over the long term. The short-term gains attained by the members of the organization will fail to have the staying power necessary for effective retention. On the other hand, inspired followers who believe in the overarching purpose of the organization, feel fulfilled in their work, and believe their leaders sincerely care about their well-being, will be prone to staying on the team.
Leaders who want to transcend motivation and inspire an organization to attain long-lasting results should use the Purpose, Commitment, Persistence Model. The model capitalizes on the elements of communication, personal interaction, and tenacity. Here is how the model could be used to transform small teams and large organizations into perennial winners.
The purpose of leadership is communicating purpose.
As a leader you must provide an overarching purpose – the classic raison d’être or “reason to exist”. This concept probably could best be explained by a quote attributed to Antoine de Saint Exup`ery that reads “if you want to build a ship, don\’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea”. This is a great example of a leader exciting the inner spirit of his or her followers and painting a vision of the future in their minds to create an enduring end state.
The purpose must be compelling and clear. GSD&M, the advertising agency that has represented clients such as Southwest Airlines, understands the importance of identifying a purpose for an organization. According to a September 2007 article in HBR GSD&M has an executive with the title “Chief Purposologist”. In the same article GSD&M co-founder Roy Spence has claimed that Southwest Airlines is not in the low fare business but rather it is in the “freedom business”, making air travel available for the average American, not just those with high incomes. Spence has called Southwest Airlines employees “freedom fighters”; a very gripping moniker.
Leadership authors and consultants, Charles Farkas and Suzy Wetlaufer have conducted research regarding how senior executives lead. After interviewing 160 CEOs worldwide from a variety of industries, they concluded that business leaders must “create a clear purpose and direction for an organization”. Communicating a compelling purpose is the sine qua non of leadership. In other words, the purpose of leadership is communicating purpose.
As a leader passionately communicates purpose it will capture the imagination of the organization. There are several reasons why this is important. A clear and compelling purpose creates an energy and excitement that the organization will use to rejuvenate itself over the course of time. This will provide sustainment since the road to success is long and rocky. Providing purpose also allows for team members to use their own creativity, innovation, and imagination to reach the end state. There are various paths that can take an organization to excellence and it is essential that the leader allow for initiative. At the same time, the purpose will provide boundaries for team members to stay within as they exercise that initiative.
It is here that the power of a good story is useful in conveying the overarching purpose of what an organization aspires to accomplish. Leaders will find that stories are effective in getting their points across in a way that sparks interest and are more easily remembered by the team than broad concepts. This is something author and professor Dr. Noel Tichy has referred to as a \”teachable point of view\” – the ability for a leader to draw on their experience and convey a message that is interesting, relevant, and teaches others. Stories elicit emotion and stir passion. A story delivered with great feeling will inspire like no graph or spreadsheet ever could. When a leader tells a story to describe the overarching purpose for what the organization aims to achieve, followers will relate better to what the leader says and will also have an easier time transferring purpose to other members of the organization by telling a similar story.
When you look at a bacon and eggs breakfast it is easy to see that the chicken was just involved while the pig was firmly committed. – Ziglar
In order to inspire an organization to reach the highest levels of performance a leader must stay fully engaged. You cannot lead from behind an office desk. A leader from any organization cannot lead their team to greatness unless they are visible to their people and move to where the action is. British Field Marshall William Slim, a leader who commanded tens of thousands of Soldiers, once said that it is impossible for a leader of a large organization to know every one of their followers, so the goal of the leader has to be to make sure that every follower knows the leader. This can only be done by a leader deliberately circulating through the organization and spending time talking with followers both in groups and one on one. Tom Peters has advised leaders to, “Celebrate what you want to see more of”. People respond when they are recognized for good performance and see that leaders sincerely care about the work they do. Leaders that invest time interacting with their people also have the advantage of gaining not only awareness of the operational environment but they also gain a more meaningful understanding. A leader must be entirely connected in order to gain the situational understanding necessary to make informed decisions.
Another benefit of circulating throughout the organization is that the leader receives authentic feedback directly from one’s followers. Although there are some that think followers will tell leaders only what they want to hear most people will speak truth to power when a leader establishes trust and comes across as sincere. By engaging followers face-to-face, a leader is able to observe the sparkle in an employee’s eye (or lack thereof) and body language. This is something a leader cannot sense by reading a report in one’s office. Some managers seem content with attending staff meetings and reading spreadsheets in their offices. They do not understand that the way to inspire employees is through personal contact rather than pressing send on their email.
Effective leaders continue to reinforce the purpose of the effort as they mingle with their team members. The key here is for the message to be consistent. President Ronald Reagan was known as a great communicator in part for his ability to stay on point. Delivering a consistent message leads to clarity of purpose and limits confusion. A leader must also describe to an organization the success that it is achieving incrementally as it marches toward the end goal. This is important because it will make it easier for followers to see the progress being made amid an oftentimes confounding environment. Leaders will energize the organization by personally congratulating teammates and celebrating success when the team meets intermediate objectives. The CEO should wear a second hat as the CCO – Chief Cheerleading Officer.
Leaders should continue to use stories as they talk to their associates. The stories should be real life vignettes about the success individual teammates and the organization as a whole have achieved. This technique assists followers in seeing that their peers are making progress which has a stimulating effect on the group.
Much of what inspirational leaders do, especially in large organizations, is about communication. However, leaders must also make their presence known when it is time to share risks. Depending on the environment and the organization this may involve both moral courage and physical courage. When risks are shared, the trust between the leader and followers is strengthened, and that too is essential for organizations to reach peak performance. Effective leaders must demonstrate that they care more about their followers than they care about themselves. This is a powerful statement and not all leaders are up to that task.
Leaders must exude positive energy and demonstrate the grit to overcome adversity.
In order to inspire an organization to reach lofty goals, a leader should adhere to the two R’s; a leader must remain Resolute and be Resilient. If there is a common experience every leader encounters, it is facing adversity. Inspirational leaders are able to move forward even through the most difficult situations. It was General U.S. Grant who said “In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten; then he who continues the attack wins”. An inspirational leader must remain resolute but at the same time must analyze setbacks and be prepared to make adjustments; this is similar to the adjustments a great football coach will make when behind in the score at halftime. When traveling the long path toward higher levels of performance, it is inevitable that leaders will need to make course corrections to keep things on track. There is no reward without risk, and within an environment of risk, leaders must understand there probably will be occasional setbacks. One of the foundational elements of successful endeavors is the leader’s ability to remain enthusiastic and optimistic because followers will feed off of those feelings. Linkage between the positive emotions of a leader and the resulting positive mood of followers was shown in a study published in 2006 by researchers Joyce Bono and Remus Illies.
Herb Kelleher, the Chairman of Southwest Airlines, is known throughout the business community as an inspirational leader. September 11, 2001 was a traumatic time for all Americans. The airline industry in particular was at particular risk in the aftermath of that day. Mr. Kelleher and Southwest displayed remarkable resiliency during that time period and ramped up quickly once the planes were allowed to fly again. Southwest continued to turn a profit after September 11th while almost all other airlines lost money.
The only ones who have never tasted failure are those who never dared to do great things. When daring greatly a leader will face adversity, and adversity will test a leader’s moral character. This is when followers will closely watch how the leader responds to tough situations. Followers are aware that anyone could lead when things are smooth, but it takes a special person to lead when things are really tough and still adhere to core values. A leader’s persistence in the face of a storm will inspire others to follow. There is also a personal development aspect for the leader who has fought through tough times. Biographer Walter Isaacson noted in his book, “Benjamin Franklin, An American Life”, that “wisdom comes from conquering adversity”.
A leader must help their teammates understand that if you fall, that is not failure. It is only failure if you fall and you do not get back up. Douglas Bloch, an author and counselor has said, if you are going through hell, don’t stop. Vince Lombardi was credited with saying, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall”.
Building a Dynasty
In chasing perfection we will achieve excellence.
A leader should be able to motivate members of the organization when necessary, but also must have the ability to inspire members of the organization to accomplish long-term success. The Purpose, Commitment, and Persistence Model is a proven way leaders could inspire their organizations to reach the pinnacle of success. Articulating an overarching purpose, connecting to the fiber of an organization by staying engaged, and exhibiting resilience even during tough times are essential traits leaders need in order to inspire the organization to stay within a band of excellence.
If Vince Lombardi only had the ability to motivate, his team may have peaked after reaching a winning record. Because Lombardi was inspirational, the team became one of the greatest football dynasties in the history of the National Football League. Lombardi once said that in chasing perfection we will achieve excellence. Leaders need to plan for “awesome” rather than just “alright”. Good things happen when a leader believes an organization could achieve anything, but great things happen when leaders get their followers to believe. Leaders must convince their followers there is no challenge too great for the organization and there is no difficulty they cannot overcome. Use purpose, commitment, and persistence to harness the power of inspiration in order to lead your organization to achieve excellence. I believe there is a little bit of Lombardi in all of us.