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While in South America to learn polo, Blake Mycoskie accompanied a woman working for a non-profit organization into rural Argentina. Their mission was to distribute shoes to children of the poor. Blake was deeply moved by the overwhelming emotions poured out by the people- joy, gratitude, appreciation, as well as their stories of how the simple act of receiving a pair shoes would change their lives for the better. Inspired by the experience, Blake founded TOMS-a company that gives away one pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair it sells. In six years, Blake grew the company to $300 million in revenue. Blake never had to motivate investors, employees, vendors or even customers, because he inspired them.

Motivation comes from within. You either want to do something or you don't. No one can make you want to do something-at least not in the long-term. In contrast, inspiration comes from without. We can be inspired by an event, a poem, artwork, a song, an experience (like Blake), or a person. Moreover, research consistently finds that inspirational leadership is positively related to high performance at the individual, group, and organizational levels. So how do great leaders inspire others? Inspirational leaders...

  1. Consistently communicate a shared vision and mission. To inspire others, they need to believe in both the journey (vision) and the destination (mission). When the vision and mission appeal to strongly held values, people become energized and support the effort. Inspirational leaders communicate the mission in ways that people see the benefits not only for themselves, but more importantly to their organization and a larger community.

  2. Express confidence in the group members. To be inspirational, the leader must believe and voice certainty in the team's ability to accomplish the mission. Thus, these leaders instil trust, optimism and enthusiasm by bestowing attention on and celebrating the skills, expertise, achievements, and contributions of team members.

  3. Create opportunities to identify with the organization. Providing opportunities for members inside and outside the organization to invest their talents, express opinions and celebrate successes stimulates the intrinsic motivation to exert emotional and physical energies on behalf of the team. In so doing, members enhance the group's distinctiveness and prestige as well as invigorate other group members. The group believes they can overcome anything if they work as a unified team.

  4. Build a culture of continuous improvement. Good enough is not good enough for inspirational leaders. They hold themselves to a high standard of performance and improvement; and challenge the team to do the same. People believe better days are ahead when they believe they are growing better every day.

  5. Dare to be different and capitalize on your uniqueness. Average inspires no one. Emphasize what makes you, your mission, your people and your organization different and celebrate it; exploit it.


Larry Hart

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