Being inspired as a leader in difficult times

Being inspired as a leader in difficult times

There is no more important job for a leader than managing the energy within their business. When people feel inspired, positive, valued and determined, the chances of success are so much higher than when the prevailing spirit is one of pessimism, disengagement and exhaustion.

But for you to be in a position to help your team thrive, you first need to master the art of managing your own energy. And rarely has this been more urgent than currently, given the seismic threats and challenges we’re all facing as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Over the past five years, I’ve talked to hundreds of leaders in many different walks of life to explore the sources of their personal inspiration. Gathering together their insights, I’ve discovered that there are three ways in which we can all increase the chances of feeling more inspired, more of the time.

  1. Seek out positive triggers in the world around you 

    Right now there are a lot of things going on that can easily leave us feeling fearful and demoralised. The impact on our businesses of disruptive shifts in customer behaviour, the concerns over people’s wellbeing and financial security, the relentless stream of Zoom meetings, the constant barrage of negative news bulletins. The list goes on…In this context, the first way to improve how you feel is to actively offset and replace this negative stimulus with more positive experiences. If you think back over the times you’ve felt your spirits lift in the past, you will almost certainly have encountered some form of trigger in the outside world. Perhaps it was an uplifting conversation with a person you like or respect. Or getting involved in some work you find enjoyable and challenging. Many leaders talk of the power of being in touch with nature, keeping physically active and having an opportunity to reflect and recharge.

    What are the activities and who are the people that you know help to lift your spirits? Write them down in a short list and then think carefully about how you can spend more of your time engaged with each of them.

  2. Choose the mindsets with which you interpret your experiences 

    No matter how good a job you do in balancing up your positive triggers, the unavoidable fact is that negative ones will also keep cropping up too. The next question, therefore, is what are you letting these unhelpful triggers mean to you when they occur?Our understanding of the world is conditioned by the mindsets we bring to interpret and make sense of our experiences. For one person a particular event might be seen as a threat, whereas another might be looking to turn it into an opportunity. The experience of a failure might be perceived by some people as proof that they are fundamentally not good enough, but by others as an opportunity to learn and get better next time around.

    Our mindsets are influenced by the assumptions we make and the stories we tell ourselves about the world and our place within it. However, if we become more conscious of these perspectives, we can begin to choose the way we think about things rather than let our responses happen by default.

    The mindset that probably has the greatest impact on our spirit as human beings is the extent to which we accept ourselves for who we are as people and the reality of the situations we find ourselves in. Another important one is our ability to see and appreciate the positive benefits and opportunities in even the most difficult circumstances. One more is thinking less about our own self-interest and more about the welfare of others in a spirit of kindness and compassion.

    Have a think about the issues that are worrying you right now. How is the mindset you’re bringing conditioning the way you’re interpreting the problem? Is there an alternative way of seeing things that gives you a fresh sense of optimism and vitality?

  3. Tap into the deepest sources of your personal motivation 

    If external triggers help stimulate our spirit and our mindsets influence how we respond to those triggers, the ultimate source of our inspiration is our intrinsic desire to make the most of ourselves as human beings and to have a positive impact beyond ourselves on the world around us.When times are tough, it matters more than ever to be living your values, by upholding in your relationships the principles you believe in and care about most deeply. Now is also the time to be making the most of your talents, by playing to your strengths and stretching your personal qualities and capabilities. And finally, you mustn’t lose sight of your passions, doing your best to stay focused on the work you love and find most fascinating.

    When these conditions are met together – doing work that you believe in, that you’re good at and that you enjoy – you will feel fulfilled, engaged and enthusiastic. You are also much more likely to discover a deep and inspiring sense of leadership purpose, giving you something meaningful to live for and to work towards.

    For many leaders, the sense of purpose they had a few months ago may well have been undermined by the impact on their organisations of the pandemic. The commercial targets they were working towards and, in some cases, the very raison d’etre of the business itself might well have become irrelevant. If you’re in this situation it’s crucial to reframe your goals and ambitions, discovering ways to refocus your energy in ways which seem productive and worthwhile.

    So, spend some time reflecting internally – what are your most important values, talents and passions? How are you channelling these to make a positive difference in the new world that’s now around you? And how can you use this sense of purpose to inspire and engage the people you’re working with?

With this thought, we’ve come full circle and returned to your role as a leader in orchestrating the energy of others. I hope that by taking care of your own triggers, mindsets and motivations, you will soon feel in a much better place to help boost the spirits of the people you are seeking to lead. And then they, in turn, will help to raise yours too and a virtuous cycle of inspiration will soon begin to flourish.