How to Become a More Inspirational Leader


Before you add, start removing

When administrators want to become more inspirational, they often seek to improve their public speaking skills or their ability to communicate a strong vision to their teams. They are not wrong but it’s rarely the place to start.

More often than not, the reason they aren’t as inspirational as they would like is because of something they do and need to stop doing. Many of these behaviors are related to an excessive need for certainty, safety, and predictability.

Here are some examples to ponder. What do you think of administrators whose need for certainty leads to the following tendencies?

  • Be unwilling to try new approaches because they haven’t been tested and proven.
  • Seek to control their direct reports’ work to make sure everything they do meets their personal preferences.
  • Worry excessively about what other people think.
  • Need closure on everything.
  • Need explanations for other people’s decisions and behaviors.
  • Have difficulty changing focus when they obsess about a problem they can’t solve.
  • Be terrified of failure and even unwilling to accept mistakes.
  • Need things to unfold according to their plan and cannot be flexible.
  • Have a narrow-minded perspective on most things.
  • Be unwilling to take risks.
  • Discourage initiative and innovation.
  • Fear looking bad or having regrets about actions or decisions.

Do you see how someone who exhibits some of these tendencies could take every public speaking courses ever created and still, not be inspirational?

The first step to becoming a better leader is always to engage in self-reflection and ask for feedback from trusted coworkers. It is essential to identify what fear-driven behaviors make someone less of a leader.

Getting comfortable with the unknown

Attachment to certainty, security, and predictability is not only an enormous handicap to leadership but also a huge source of stress and irrational worry. Administrators who worry too much about what they don’t know, often think they are being proactive or thorough when in fact, they are creating unnecessary limitations.

You may be familiar with this motivational quote “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because its trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.” The same goes for leaders. True leaders do not fear unpredictable situations because they trust in their ability to handle them.

Here are some reminders to become more comfortable with the unknown.

1.     Change your definition of the unknown “from something to fear” to “something to create”. What is not yet determined represents an abundance of opportunities.

2.     Develop your self-confidence to realize that you will be ok no matter what.

3.     Remember that you are not alone and you are surrounded by talent. You and your team can afford to take some risks.

4.     Choose growth over stagnation. You are a servant leader and your job is to grow and keep serving at a higher level, not arrive safely at retirement.

5.     Don’t waste precious time and energy worrying about what you don’t know. Focus on what you can do to bring value to your job.

Blurred lines

It’s easy to recognize these tendencies in others (i.e. fearful vs. courageous and expansive vs. limiting) but less clear when we look at ourselves. People who are too attached to predictability call it “responsibility” or “professionalism.” Those who suffer from anxiety when they don’t know what other people think or when they don’t have closure on an issue call that “wanting to learn from the experience.” Can you relate? You may think your need to get answers is to learn when in fact your discomfort comes from your insecurities.

Maybe you weren’t considered for a leadership role, or you weren’t invited to serve on a taskforce, or you weren’t told the reasoning behind a decision that was made. You can make the issue all about you, or you can realize that often, other people’s behavior has nothing to do with you. You don’t know the full picture. More often than not, it is in your best interest to let it go and focus on other things rather than feed your insecurities and paranoia.

Next time you catch yourself having an insatiable need to know something but the information is not and will not be available, remember to pause and ask yourself if the answer is truly critical to your ability to do your job or if you are over-reacting.

Too many administrators sabotage their potential by acting fearful and irrational. The desire to control everything and the need to stay within the comfort of what is known are not compatible with true leadership.

To grow as a leader, I recommend you work on becoming less rigid and more open. The magic will happen outside your comfort zone. Be ready to leap and you will finally unleash your potential as a truly inspirational leader.

Need help? I am only a phone call away. If you would like to discuss how I can help you develop more trust in yourself and in your success, so that you can detach from your need for certainty, click here to schedule a free consultation.

 About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and in-person training.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.

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