When I speak on leadership, I’ve asked the above question countless times, and I’ve heard hundreds of people describe an inspirational leader in their life — a coach, a teacher, a relative, or a boss.
Over and over again, they don’t tell me about the rockstar CEO who roused the crowd with a stunning speech. They tell me about a series of small investments the leader made in them — personal conversations they had that changed how they felt about themselves, their lives, and their attitudes.
And as incredible as these stories were, it’s the energy with which they were told that captivated me. When we remember people who have inspired us, the room becomes technicolor —when people told me their stories, they were laughing and smiling, arms waiving, full of energy.
Imagine bringing that kind of energy and passion into the workplace. It feels amazing to be engaged in your work and energized about your future possibilities. To belong to an organization where everyone gives their best effort and risk-taking is encouraged. And sadly, most of us are not there. Gallup’s annual engagement survey shows that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work – a figure that’s held steady for 15 years.
A lot of that we can attribute to this paradox about inspiration: what we think of as inspiration — big speeches, grand visions — is anything but. Inspiration can’t be forced, it’s something we decide for ourselves. The role of a leader is to lay the breadcrumbs for people to become inspired themselves.
With that in mind, here are five essential skills you can cultivate to practice inspiring leadership at the office every day.