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by William Winstone

I’m inspired by virtuoso violinist Nigel Kennedy; his panache, his joy, his lyrical musicianship and re-writing of what is possible in ‘classical’ music (he hates that term).

Turns out he had his own inspirational mentors – Stefan Grappelli, the jazz violinist, and Yehudi Menuhin, whose music school he attended, and who positively encouraged Kennedy’s broad love of every sort of music including that terrible word for some classical musicians at the time: ‘jazz’.

These two mentors had a fundamental influence on the shape of Kennedy’s whole career. How do you inspire and influence those that report to you and work with you? We often use the following model to explore influencing strategies. The four styles are:

  • Connecting – Building trust, rapport and understanding through questioning and listening.
  • Convincing – Using facts and logic to persuade others to accept your suggestions.
  • Requiring – Expressing your needs and beliefs with power, emotion and direction.
  • Inspiring – Creating a positive vision of how things could be, and how people could contribute to achieving this.
1. Embrace inspiration as a leadership muscle, whatever your personality type.

Inspiration gets a bad press; people think of charismatic demagogues, who say what people want to hear, but who may be shallow and not follow through. Or they think of extraverted communicators, with the ‘gift of the gab’, and conclude ‘I’m more introverted’ so that’s not me.

In fact, whatever your personality, you can inspire in a way that is authentic to you.

2. Seize the big picture – Become bigger than your expertise

Many professional lawyers, scientists, accountants and leaders from all sectors are so steeped in their original expertise, they underuse their ability to hold the big picture of what really matters to their clients and their staff. Stand back, remind yourself of your purpose, why your team and organization exist, and keep talking about this with your teams and your clients.

3. Develop clarity about what success will look and feel like, when you deliver on your ‘why’.

For example Selina Weigman and Leah Williamson were very clear about their purpose and what success would look like ahead of their England football Euro success. “And I think for every success that we make, and for every change of judgement or perception, or opening the eyes of somebody who views women as somebody with the potential to be equal to her male counterpart, I think that makes change in society.”

4. Bring yourself to work

Too many leaders have an overly separate work and home persona, perhaps as a misplaced attempt to be ‘professional’. Whereas your team will only be inspired when they get to know you, and you get to know them.

Invest the thinking time and people time needed to become a more inspirational leader.

Do this by:

  • Regularly reminding yourself of the bigger picture – write it down and leave it somewhere visible
  • Practice describing that bigger picture – what success looks like – in different ways. What will it look like but also how will it feel
  • Be aware of when you are holding back on emotion that others may find inspiring
  • Actively look for actions, behaviours and events that you find inspiring, and for opportunities to share this with your team.
Further Listening: Nigel Kennedy on This Cultural Life

Check it out