Have you ever worked with a memorable and highly skilled leader? Inspiring leaders are visionaries who project a sense of a brighter future that all can see. They convey messages that enlist others and attract diverse people to a common cause.
Often the best leaders must challenge the status quo. They must articulate a path not yet taken, and make the idea of that path so real that others understand and build it. Top leaders celebrate success and share victories with others, rarely taking credit themselves.
There are many notable historical figures who are examples of this. When President John F. Kennedy challenged the country to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, we did not know if that was even scientifically possible. But the nation rallied around and many very smart scientists, engineers and others figured it out and accomplished it. In fact, we beat the goal set by the President and that accomplishment inspired a nation.
When Martin Luther King made his “I have a dream speech” in Washington before millions of people, he inspired a generation to think about and act on achieving a better life. He outlined a clear alternative of peaceful intervention in the accomplishment of civil rights for all.
But you don’t need to be a President or a famous preacher to be an inspirational leader.
An illustration is the story of Melissa Poe. When Melissa was a fourth grader, she saw a documentary about the environment and pollution. She decided she needed to do something about it. It started as a grass roots effort with six classmates doing little things like picking up litter and planting bushes. Over time she spread her vision by writing to the President of the United States and convincing billboard companies to put out her message which captured the attention of the press. Ultimately, she founded a non-profit Kids FACE (Kids For A Cleaner Environment). Kids FACE grew to thousands of chapters around the world. After leading this non-profit for many years, when she became 18, Melissa decided she was too old to be the leader of the organization and was succeeded by two 15 year olds.
Inspiring leaders come from all walks of life and all ages. What they have in common are the desire to create a positive future, a willingness to face and overcome difficulties, the ability to communicate their vision and hold themselves and others accountable, and a personal investment in the results of their efforts. If you can create enthusiasm, empower others, instill confidence and serve as a role model, you will be a leader who inspires.