In leadership development programs and coaching sessions, we often discuss the topic of how to inspire team members. If you’ve ever asked the same question, I hope that this edition of True Insights helps you answer it.
What Makes a Leader Inspiring?
Bain and Co provided a fascinating answer to the question in a study published in June 2016.
You can explore the findings of the study here, but before you do, let’s have a little fun.
To play along, simply think about your own answer to the question:What makes a leader inspiring?
Is it having and communicating a clear vision?
Is it about emotional connection with followers?
Is it about the presence you bring, your charisma, courage, and care?
All of these can be inspiring to people, but they are not the #1 characteristic. I suspect you already know that; you just might not have found a word to describe it.
The answer to the question is centeredness.
As defined by Eric Garton, a partner at Bain & Co, in his April 2017 HBR article How to Be an Inspiring Leader (https://hbr.org/2017/04/how-to-be-an-inspiring-leader), centeredness is a state of mindfulness that enables leaders to remain calm under stress, empathize, listen deeply, and remain present.
If we break down the Bain definition of centeredness, we see that it is both a mental state (mindfulness) and a set of behaviors (staying calm, empathizing, listening, and being present) that are the result of that mental state.
Mindfulness. If you read True Insights #23, you know that mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening right now, in the present.
Calm, empathetic, present. This means that when we are talking with someone on our team, we are not thinking about anything else. The discipline of remaining focused brings calmness and enables empathy and deep listening.
How do people develop centeredness?
Because centered is a state of mindfulness, learning and applying mindfulness techniques (see True Talk #10 for one of them) is the most direct path available to most people.
In my experience as a coach and a leadership development facilitator, I’ve observed that most highly centered people also develop centeredness with three habitual behaviors.
They are efficient and productive. They use schedule and task management systems to ensure they are able to keep up on their most important tasks and projects. They are able to be centered because their schedules are under control. By contrast, people who are constantly behind and frequently overwhelmed will struggle to be centered.
They take time to reflect. Having time to slow down and think deeply about important questions and issues is so critical to success that only people who make this a habit are able to consistently achieve the results they want. Reflection may be combined with mindfulness techniques such as meditation, mindful walking or running, or journaling.
They balance their lives. Centered people do not obsess over work. They enjoy it, but they also enjoy time with family and/or friends, physical activity, personal interests. Living a balanced life allows a person to bring the energy and wisdom needed to be centered in all situations.
When We are Centered, Everyone Wins
If you think about it, centeredness is not just an inspiring characteristic in a leader. It is equally inspiring in people who do not have a leader title. Colleagues. Subordinates. Vendors. Customers. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children. In that sense, centeredness is something the benefits everyone around us. That makes it worth cultivating and practicing.
Yours in centeredness,
True Talk #11 centeredness,