Nearly every man that I know can almost quote Mel Gibson from Braveheart, “They may take our lives but they will never take our FREEDOM!”
With that speech the men were willing to rush the might English with hoes, shovels and sheer force of will. Such rousing speeches get folks excited and there will be loud shouts. It is true that courage can be stirred and every leader will try to inspire and motivate his troops from the boardroom to battlefields around the world with great words.
But the effect is limited and unfortunately often short lived. When exhaustion and fear take over suddenly all of those words mean nothing. What is a leader to do? The following tips can help you get your troops to take action until objectives are met and victory is won.
How great leaders inspire action
Take the Lead
It seems simple enough but seems to be missed in many circles. I don’t know how, I mean, the word “lead” is in the word “leader”. But if you are to be a leader you must make decisions. If you are going to be in charge be in charge. If you are not going to lead than get out of the way and let others lead.
Taking the lead means being a subject matter expert within your industry. Watch videos, listen to podcasts, attend seminars, read magazines and books and then take all of that information and think about how you will apply it. Use your mind to walk through all of the possible unforeseen consequences.
Consider how you need to present the ideas, concerns or whatever it is you are going to introduce to the mix. Once you have thought about it, take action. The action might be something simple like set up a meeting with an important stakeholder. Maybe it is something more aggressive.
Over the years I have found myself on committees and in organizations that loved to talk, complain mostly, and then schedule another the meeting to do it all over again. Leadership is moving an idea from an inkling of a seed of an idea to where it is bearing fruit.
If there is to be no fruit again; get out of the way and let someone who wants to see and eat fruit be in charge. Taking the lead also means that you must be willing to take on the worst of jobs.
On D-day the first one off the boats in the official landing was the grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt. Other generals that day charged pill boxes and took young officers under their wing to show how things were done. It is that type of leadership that brings results. Be the first to take on the worst of jobs and see what sort of influence that you gain. Like the US Infantry is fond of saying, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”
Show you care
What could you accomplish with men that are as dedicated as those 300 at Thermopylae? I am pretty sure that nothing would be impossible. In the Pressfield’s classic book, “The Gates of Fire” King Leonidas knew the names and families of the 300 Spartans that were going to fight and die with him.
It was this sort of dedication of the leader that shifted these men from simply followers of a King to a dedicated to the death to this leader sort of guys. Listen to your folks and explain your thinking to them. Talk with them about work and life. Arrange for the right kind of training and equipment.
Of course you cannot know the right training or equipment unless you are interacting with those you are to lead. Where ever possible support the decisions your folks made or are going to make. Take the chance to let them make mistakes and then use those mistakes as teaching moments.
I remember when I was a young man working at a discount store when a customer complained that I was not accepting something that they were returning. In this situation I was following the directions that I had received. The manager, however, gave into the customer and made me look like a fool.
I had stood my ground to take the verbal abuse of a customer because of a policy the store had insisted on and the manager took the side of the customer. Later he did call me in and let me know that I did right but it was too late. He had already betrayed me. I never respected that manager again. Show them that you care and they will face death for you.
Demonstrate High Standards
If you want your people to be the best in the industry you better be doing your best to rise yourself. Develop the highest possible standards of excellence in your letters and speeches. Set a high standard in your personal development.
I lose respect for a leader that hides out in his office all day and then decides at the end of the day that there is much work to do. Let me see you working and showing me your work ethic first and foremost. All leaders need to set the standard in appearance as well as be strong mentally, spiritually and socially.
Our manners as leaders must be the best possible. I remember as part of an interview process, for a job that I had really wanted by the way, that we were going to go out to lunch at a local diner. When the waitress came the potential employer asked her a question that she did not immediately know the answer to and this man went into a tirade about her not knowing her job.
She tried to explain that she was new but he did not seem to care and was extremely rude to the waitress. He then complained to others about the service. Nothing she had done warranted such a tirade. It dawned on me later that if he treated the server that way he would treat me that way later.
There was no way that I could work with someone that could lose their cool over such trivial matters. His standard of politeness was extremely low. His respect for people did not set the standard of excellence that I expect from those that I follow. I could not respect him.
If you want to lead people you need to set a high standard of excellence.
There is nothing more frustrating than working for someone who does not know what they were doing but refused to admit it. Oh the humanity! If you are a leader you may not need to know the science of how a key piece of technology exists but you must understand why your organization has it and what it provides to the organization.
Take time to understand the mission and purpose of your organization. Study and know what the policies are that govern the organization. Most people don’t read the policy manual but if you are to lead you must know it. Decisions must be made in accordance with the policies or you must be able to explain why this is an exception.
Exceptions cannot honestly be made unless you understand the policies. Here is also where you need to be able to capture the hearts of your followers when you give them that inspirational speech. Be competent in your speech and watch them shape the destiny of your organization.
We may never be required to inspire our followers to charge onto the field of battle or take on other life threatening risks. However, if you want to be a leader take time to lead, show them that you care, demonstrate your high standards and be competent. If you do this you will make your competition squirm and your organization will succeed.