Particularly at Gartner and Bright Horizons, I had the great pleasure of working for some pretty inspiring leaders. I admired these individuals for their success, wisdom, and experience. Still, the one who takes center stage in my memory is someone who consistently showed me that the feeling was mutual. I left every conversation with this highly respected leader having more confidence in myself, and a more invigorated sense of my own capabilities. He energized me. He made me ready to take on any challenge and eager to make our business more successful. In turn, I also made him more successful. Smart guy.
We can be inspirational leaders in our personal lives as well. We can bring light and energy into the room and into conversations with our friends. We have the opportunity to ignite positivity and confidence in every person we meet. The gift is not just to comment on what we see, but to shine a light into the heart of others so that they can see what they need to see for themselves.
When my father – my hero – passed away, I realized that one of the greatest gifts he left me was my belief in myself. My childhood being what it was, I'm sure there are things he would have spared me. Still, I remember times when he stepped back, let me figure things out on my own, and be accountable to outcomes. Through his intentions, words, and deeds he made me admire and respect him while also inspiring that same confidence within me.
In speaking to a group of entrepreneurs last night, we agreed that not all personal relationships feel quite so wonderful. Even with siblings and friends, sometimes it's hard for us to be as supportive and encouraging as we can (or should) be because we are trying to measure up to something in our own minds. Protective walls are made higher by implicit expectations or fear of not being "good enough."
True love and admiration might be there but we just assume they're all set. Our friend seems to be doing pretty great on their own, so what do they need from us? We're dealing with our own "stuff." It doesn't occur to us to try to inspire them. Yet, sometimes the people who are least likely to show their struggles are the ones who need the most encouragement. (Please read that sentence again.)
The lesson is not only to be someone worthy of admiration, but to openly admire others. Let them know. Even if you don’t think they need to hear what’s so great about them, tell them anyway. Especially if you don’t think they need it, tell them. Show them. Be explicit. Put forth words and actions that breed confidence. Be consistent in this practice, both personally and professionally.
I had this in mind when I added these three words to my personal brand:
Inspire. Ignite. Illuminate.
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