There is an interview question I have been asking for around 15 years, “Who (outside your family) has most inspired you in either your personal or work life?”
I must have asked it over 100 times, but am usually disappointed with the answer. Many people struggle to look outside their family, which is some ways is sweet – to have a mum or dad or spouse who inspires is a good thing. When pushing people to move outside their family, many struggle to think of anyone. A fairly high percentage come up with business icons such as Richard Branson, which is disappointing as I assume they have never met the guy and are only basing this on what they have read. We definitely have a need for more inspiring leaders in the UK.
Interestingly, I was having a conversation around this subject last week with someone who is involved in coaching entrepreneurs and it seems that those who are at the sharp end of starting businesses often do have someone who has inspired them. Now, I find that interesting because that means that perhaps if there were more inspirational leaders around, then maybe we would have more successful young (and older) entrepreneurs around too? Food for thought.
Either way, more and better inspirational leaders are required. There is a paucity of leaders around in business and politics who are truly inspirational, through their self-sacrificial and compassionate nature to those they lead. Just think of the impact of people like Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King. How different would the world be with more around like them?
I particularly noticed this at the start of the pandemic a year ago. The pressure of the time resulted in several leaders regressing to a uncaring, un-empathetic leadership as they feared for their future careers and businesses. It was this that made me start to gather adjectives that those who have experienced great leadership would use to describe their bosses. I came up with 50 and started to write a book with 50 chapters, each one examining one of these 50 characteristics.
To check whether I had captured them all, I did a test online and put out a message to ask what qualities people would expect great leaders to have. I had a tremendous response and all but one of the adjectives that came back are captured in my new book. The one I didn’t have was ‘magnanimous’ and I’ll confess I had to look up the meaning of this word. It means forgiving and generous in defeat, and I have a chapter on both ‘forgiving’ and ‘generous’ in the book, so I could tick that one off too!
The seed of this book on leadership was actually first planted when writing my first book, Forces for Good. I wrote about using businesses to change the world for good, along the lines of the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. When writing the book, though, I was aware that if we want to change the world for good, we will also need to change ourselves as people and leaders. I called this inner change required to increase our compassion and love for the world ‘The Fourth Bottom Line’ which, as it happens, made a great title for my next book, available at all online booksellers for pre-order now. I am excited to be able to help in a small way with bringing forward a new generation of inspirational leaders through a 50-day workbook.
Each day there is a dictionary definition of the characteristic in question, four quotes from other leaders explaining the quality, a story or two from me demonstrating how each characteristic is exhibited in good leadership, and the challenge of three action points to put it into practice in our lives that day. If that seems like something that interests you in your journey to better leadership, please do pre-order the book!