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The 6 Behaviors of Inspiring Leaders

by Anna Mischke | Mar 02, 2018
Monthly Blog 030518

In a 360-degree leadership case study from over 87,000 leaders from around the globe, Zenger Folkman, a strengths-based leadership development group, found the top three leadership traits that matter were the ability to focus on customer needs, the ability to collaborate with colleagues, and the ability to inspire. However, it was discovered that inspiring and motivating others is the most difficult competency for leaders to grasp. In studies for over a dozen years, this skill continues to place last in overall leadership effectiveness. Considering that the ability to motivate and encourage is perceived as the strongest influence on the engagement level of direct reports and the behavior that most appreciate in a leader, it is striking that this is where leaders are least effective.

According to the report, there are two main factors that make inspiring others a difficult competency to embody. Individuals find different techniques effective depending on their personal nature and leaders find what type of behavior to exhibit to inspire difficult to grasp. Of the top 1,000 leaders in the assessment who ranked highest on the competency of inspiring and motivating others, it was found that they shared six common approaches. Some are specific and tangible using highly engaged, extraverted behavior and others leaned more towards emotional connections and close, effective communication. Regardless of the type of approach, the research was palpable: the more of these behaviors a leader demonstrated, the more the leader is seen as inspiring.

Visionary: Provides a clear, concrete vision of the future. They are strategic and innovative and make future goals appear achievable to the team through effective communication. 

Enhancing: Creates strong individual relationships along with team relationships by focusing on others and treating them with respect. These leaders show great interest in the ideas and opinions of others’ and connecting on an emotional level.

Driver: Focuses on achieving company goals: meeting deadlines, fulfilling commitments, and reaching objectives are necessary, not optional.

Principled: Model integrity and take action that follows rules and procedures, never asking others to compromise their ethics.

Enthusiast: Display passion and energy surrounding their work and the organization, generating enthusiasm and energy among the organization.

Expert: Offer expert, important information and use strong technical direction to solve problems.

Evidence shows that when 310 leaders focused on improving their ability to inspire and motivate by actively refining any one of these leadership approaches, they moved from the 42nd percentile to the 70th percentile. By employing motivating tactics that suited their various personality types, creating a strong development plan, providing and receiving strong feedback, and building awareness- leaders were able to make substantial improvements in their ability to inspire and motivate their teams.

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