There have been more than 15,000 books written on the subject of leadership but, when you boil it down, leadership is about inspiring people to get things done.
Leadership author and speaker Kevin Kruse says that “leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”
As Kruse points out, there are three basic elements to leadership – influence, people, and a goal.
Great leaders know this.
Throughout history, their words have inspired movements.
Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. On August 28, 1963, in front of a gathered crowd of more than 200,000 people, he inspired a nation by his words.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
His words and actions motivated millions of people to act which ultimately led to The Civil Rights Act of 1964. King understood the power of influence. He knew that to inspire people to action, he needed to paint a picture of the future.
A future where his “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
He knew that when people understand the “why” behind a movement, they would be motivated to act.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French writer, poet, and pioneering aviator, said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Great leaders inspire action – they don’t force it.Great leaders inspire action - they don’t force it. Click To Tweet
Many managers, on the other hand, rely on micromanagement to try and get things done. Instead of creating a vision, they “drum up people to collect wood and assign them tasks.”
And if people don’t comply, these bosses rely on threats, intimidation, and mandates to try and force people to act.
The problem with mandates is that they don’t work – they don’t inspire action.
They are the last resort for a manager who has failed to make a compelling case.The problem with mandates is that they don’t work - they don’t inspire action. They are the last resort for a manager who has failed to make a compelling case. Click To Tweet
It’s like a frustrated parent who says, “I’m your father that’s why” or “If you don’t eat your dinner, you can’t go out and play.”
Instead of compliance, mandates create defiance.
When a boss fails to establish a vision of the future or properly explain the “why” behind their new rules, people are not moved to action. Most will push back.
It’s human nature not to follow someone if you don’t where they are headed.It’s human nature not to follow someone if you don’t where they are headed. Click To Tweet
This week has been filled with news of mandates and consequences for non-compliance. I’m not an expert in politics or infectious diseases, but I know people. I know they don’t like being told what to do especially when they don’t see a clear vision of the future.
Will there be some compliance with these mandates? Sure. But I think there will be a lot more defiance.
This is not a political post, this is about leadership and you need to consider it as it relates to your own leadership story.
Are you inspiring people to action? Or, are you mandating compliance?
If you want to create a movement, you need to inspire people with a vision of the future that they all want to be in.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was probably the greatest example of a leader who embraced this idea. We could all learn a lot from his example.
If you are interested in learning more about how to inspire a workforce, check out my new book, All in the Same Boat: Lead Your Organization Like a Nuclear Submariner.
[Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images]