Xi Ren is the Founder of Xel Consulting that focuses on enhancing organizational performance through employee engagement. She has more than 20 years of HR experience in both consulting and corporate roles across multiple industries, with Global Leadership scope. She has proven track records of setting up the talent management function, creating a corporate university, curating leadership development, leading large-scale transformation projects, building a strong organizational culture, driving high performing teams and employee engagement. As a Shared Leadership Coach and Team Expert, she coaches leaders to be effective People Managers and helps them build high performing teams so that organizations can enjoy sustainable profits.
Great leadership is critical for any organization to succeed. A leader’s role is not about giving orders and having the final say in everything. Instead, a great leader is someone who can inspire others to be their best selves. They are able to create an environment where their team members feel happy and engaged with their work. Yet, we often hear people leave because of their managers. McKinsey’s 2022 Great Attrition, Great Attraction 2.0 Global Survey reported that uncaring and uninspiring leaders is one of the top 3 reasons why people quit their jobs, besides lack of career development and advancement and inadequate total compensation.
This article aims to share insights on the elements to be an inspiring leader and provide a moment for self-reflection of where are you in inspiring your team.
Visionary: An inspiring leader is someone who can articulate the vision and goals of the organization clearly. You ensure that the team is clear about the direction and create a sense of purpose where they feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. When the team understands the bigger picture, they become more engaged and motivated to achieve the common goal. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that everyone in the team is aware of the organizational vision and goals and that they work towards achieving them.
Care: Inspiring leaders care for their people and show empathy. You are able to connect with your team on a personal level, build relationships and understand their emotions and needs. You provide support and guidance to help them grow. You are available to your team when they need you for help, advice, solutions etc. You are able to give constructive feedback to help them develop and allow them to identify areas where they can improve. When people feel that their leader cares about them and their development, they become more loyal and engaged with their work.
Empower: An inspiring leader is someone who empowers their team members and gives them the space to use their skills to do their best work. Effective delegation is a critical skill that leaders must possess. You are able to delegate tasks to team members based on their skills and strengths and provide them with the necessary resources and support. You provide challenges for them to constantly learn and grow. This will address the concern of lack of career development and advancement. We know that it is not always possible for vertical career growth as promotions are limited. We need to provide employees with lateral career growth opportunities through challenging them, picking up new skills and experiences.
Collaborate: Recognizing that greatness is not achieved on your own, inspiring leaders foster collaboration. At the same time, you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and help out when needed. Leaders who lead by example create a culture of mutual respect and support.
Appreciate: Inspiring leaders make people feel appreciated and valued. Acknowledging the work and efforts of team members and celebrating successes, both big and small, is important. It could be providing words of affirmation, token of appreciation, a thank-you note or public recognition. Recognizing the hard work and dedication of team members promotes a sense of pride and accomplishment, which motivates them to continue to perform at their best.
Open: Open communication is key to a positive work environment. Inspiring leaders encourage open communication and create an environment where people feel safe to speak up. You are humble and is a good listener. You are open-minded to listen to new ideas and feedback and make people feel heard. This fosters a culture of innovation and creativity. Inspiring leaders are not afraid to show their vulnerability. You are willing to admit and learn from your mistakes. By doing so, you demonstrate trust, respect, and openness.
Authentic: Inspiring leaders are authentic and instil trust. You lead by example and model the behaviours you want to see in your teams. You are consistent in your words and actions. You treat everyone on your team fairly and with respect. This gains the trust of your team members, making them more receptive to you.
Composed: Inspiring leaders are able to manage their own emotions and the effect they have on themselves and others. They are able to handle stress well and remain calm under pressure. This fosters an environment of trust and respect. Unfortunately, I often hear from employees that their managers let it out on them. This creates a culture of fear, results in employees feeling demotivated and disengaged from their work, leading to lower performance. It is important for leaders to manage their emotions in a healthy way, such as getting enough rest, exercising or engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation.
In summary, inspiring leaders are passionate and have positivity that is contagious. Their team members feel this and want to do their best. They have high emotional intelligence, instill trust and create an environment where people feel empowered, valued, appreciated and heard. They are people-centric. As the saying goes “When people know how much you care, they will care what you know.” Do not ever lose the human connections amidst the fast pace of work, dynamic changes and pressures to deliver! When people feel that you genuinely care about them, they will care about your business.