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Are you inspiring the people you lead?

No matter where you are in New Zealand, or who you’re talking to, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on top of everyone’s mind.

I recently visited beautiful New Zealand on a business trip that was jam-packed with keynote presentations, CEO dinners and other events where I got to meet the country’s business leaders.

In all these conversations, someone would eventually bring up their youthful and charismatic prime minister. I totally get it; even before I visited New Zealand, I wrote a blog about her extraordinary leadership in the wake of the horrific events in Christchurch. Once I actually got to the country, I gained a much deeper appreciation of the horror of that mass shooting and Ardern’s stoic leadership.

Throughout my tour of New Zealand, I kept thinking over and over again – these things shouldn’t happen in a place like this. They shouldn’t happen anywhere, really, but especially in a place where the people are so genuine and sincere.

My blog focused on Ardern’s response – she moved immediately to ban military-style semi-automatic guns and assault rifles – and how the world was in awe of her acts of leadership. It seemed that just about everyone was inspired by her.

Fortune Magazine also recently released its annual World’s Greatest 50 Leaders list and Ardern came in second. Fortune highlighted how she “showed the world her fullness as a leader as she deftly, empathetically, and humbly navigated New Zealand through the worst terror attack in its history, after 50 were killed at two mosques in Christchurch in March”. They also described how future leaders can look to her for a master class in how to lead a country through a crisis.

When people talked about her they did so with such pride. Many would set aside their personal politics and acknowledge what she did for the victims, their families and the country as a whole.

This got me thinking about the power that comes from a leader who inspires others.

When I think back to those leaders who had the biggest impact on me personally, I remember that it was the emotion, the visceral feeling of being inspired by another person.

First off, I wanted to please them. So, I worked really hard to deliver and make sure my performance not just met expectations, but exceeded them.

I also didn’t want to disappoint them. The leaders who inspired me put their confidence in me. They gave me opportunities that others didn’t. As a result, I wasn’t going to let them down.

In almost every way, they became my role models. I thought to myself, “maybe one day I can be the kind of leader they are today.”

They also came to mind whenever I faced a challenge or problem – a time where maybe I didn’t know what to do or how to move forward. I would simply ask myself, “what would this person do?

What I also valued was the fact that I felt I was learning from them. I would observe them in action and see what they did. I believe when people feel they are learning from their leaders, this becomes a powerful source of engagement. The leaders I worked with helped me be better.

As I reflected further, I realized I also respected the way they lived their lives as human beings. The leaders I admired were down to earth people. They didn’t have a ton of ego. They would do little things, like clean up after themselves after meetings, to show humility. If we were travelling together, they would hop in the back seat of a cab and let others take the front seat. They would open doors for others. They were kind. They were funny. They never took themselves too seriously.

Is any of this ringing true for you?

As I look out in the world today, we need inspiration more than ever. If you are in a leadership role, there’s an expectation that you are inspiring those around you. Are you?

Are you inspiring the people you lead?

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