Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. -- George Bernard Shaw
A little appreciated reality is that the majority of people are aching to make a commitment in their lives—to others, to a goal, to the world—if only they could find the spark that would set them into action.
The missing links are the belief in oneself and the inspiration from others. Few of us believe that we are rich enough, smart enough, skilled enough, well enough connected, or "lucky" enough to achieve our dreams or effect change. So we settle for mediocrity, and this is uninspiring—not only for us, but also for everyone else with whom we connect.
Where Do We Start?
Let‘s begin by thinking of ourselves as powerful, translating bold thoughts into bold actions, capable of making change anywhere we wish. The reality is that whatever we do changes the world—we simply need to decide the quality and scale of our purpose in life and therefore how much we will alter the course of the ship we call Earth. Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.—none of these were born with any special privilege. Indeed, they were likely born with less of everything than you and I. They did not complain—they simply committed to changing the world.
People who are effective (reaching the goals they have set for themselves, whether on the spiritual, mental, or physical levels) inspire others, because it is inspiring to see people actually getting things done rather than just talking about it.
The act of being effective is inspiring because we are a species that seeks completion and order. Loose ends and untidiness frustrate; conclusions and closures offer a sense of satisfaction and tidiness, an inner pleasure that flows from the completion of tasks, projects, or missions. The experience of effectiveness is intensely satisfying and inspiring.
To Be Inspiring, We Must Be Ambitious
What would it take to change the world? We would need to pull the levers that could make the most effective change in the shortest period of time. So, which levers would we pull? In a previous era, we might have reached for the religious-community lever because the religious community was the most revered and respected of all human communities. This is no longer so.
As the power, influence, and credibility of the religious community waned, the political community assumed its role. But this eventually faded, too, and today, the most powerful community in our society has become business—it is now the business community that can influence the world more than any other.
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Indeed, if we wanted to change the world, the most effective way to do so would be to change the global impact of, for example, Wal-Mart (nearly 2 million employees), Manpower (employing nearly 4.5 million temporary and permanent staff), Deutsche Post, Siemens, Hon Hai Precision Industry (Hong Kong), and McDonald‘s (each with around 500,000 employees), all of whom have millions of suppliers and customers. Each week, 100 million people shop at Wal-Mart alone.
Within the orbit of just these six typical large organizations, hundreds of millions—perhaps billions—of lives are touched daily. If the leaders of these six organizations were to convene and commit to changing the world by honoring and inspiring their employees more, being more mindful of how they impact their communities and the environment, how they deal with ethics and leadership, how they pay their taxes, how they regard the spirit, how they enrich the human experience, how they nourish meaning and fulfillment—in short, how they lead, inspire, and enhance lives—they would change the world. And they could change the world faster than any other single grouping of people or organizations.
Yet many corporate leaders misread this opportunity, resorting instead to tactics that may enhance short-term results at the expense of the common good. This is uninspiring to employees, customers, suppliers, regulators, unions—just about everybody—the very opposite of what we are intending to achieve. The results are continuing messes and untidiness—of emotions and process.
A Corporation or a Movement?
Do this exercise with me for a moment: Take two pieces of paper and head one with the word "Corporation," and the other with the word "Movement." Now write down all the words that immediately come to your mind when you think of the idea of "a corporation." When you have completed this, do the same on the other page: what words come to your mind when you think of the idea of "a movement"?
Chances are that on the "Corporation" page you wrote words like, profit, bureaucracy, hierarchy, controls, politics, lawsuits, budgets, meetings, fear, policies, marketing ploys, regulators, and so on. On the page headed "Movement" you might have listed words like, passion, change, transformation, excitement, values, integrity, a cause, dreams, inspiration, progress, leadership, service, improvement, and so on.
Now ask yourself these questions: Which one am I trying to build? Which one inspires me?
Every team, every organization can be a movement. We can create institutions that stand for something, that will begin a revolution or a transformation, and that serve the world and make it a better place for us all. It is a choice. What will it be for you?
External Success vs. Internal Satisfaction and Joy
Osho said, "Your whole idea about yourself is borrowed—borrowed from those who have no idea of who they are themselves."
We are each comprised of what John Northam has called the essential self and the social self—or what in this book we will refer to as the Soul and the Personality. The personality is akin to the social self, and it is the exterior by which we are known to others. The essential self is a deeper, mystical source that connects us to the sacred.
The metric we use when working from our social self is success—a measure that is externally gauged. The metric we use when working from our essential self is satisfaction—or what we might call joy—a measure that is internally gauged.
The Soul's Internal Compass
The soul represents our true essence, our internal compass, what we long for and what, if supported generously by the personality, would guide us joyfully, and flawlessly, to our North Star—our Destiny, Character, and Calling. But the personality constantly manipulates and overrides our thinking in order to make us conform to an external compass—what people will think, our image, our shortcomings, how we will be assessed or judged, what is politically correct, whether we will succeed or fail or be happy, or whether our actions will enhance our careers—in other words, our level of "success."
Although our lives succumb to the direction of the compass of our social self—an outside measure—we yearn to be guided more authentically from within, by our North Star, our essential self—an inside measure. The soul wants to make the world a better place, but the personality whispers a thousand seductions in our ear—reasons why our idealism is naïve and doomed to failure. The soul wants us to be on Higher Ground— the personality heaps scorn upon us for being idealists.
The most frequently seen leadership style is one that emanates principally from the personality—what some might view as the ego, which is typically characterized by ambition, determination, aggression, and goal attainment, and this results in self-interested leadership.
Living a life that is inspiring, and that inspires others, requires that we listen to the soul at least as often, perhaps even more, than we listen to our personality—hearing and respecting both equally. In other words, inspiring leadership, and being inspired, flows from joy—not success—from the soul more than the personality.
Defining Inspirational Leadership
How might the world look if we became fully conscious, inviting the Soul—the leader that resides within—to complement our learned leadership style? The result would be the practice of inspirational leadership, which we are all capable of, but which requires our conscious and ongoing commitment in order to achieve its full expression.
Inspirational leadership must contain three essential components:
1. Loving intent
2. Contribution to the positive growth of others
3. Enhancing the condition of the world
Therefore, Inspirational Leadership could be defined as follows:
Inspirational leadership is a serving relationship with others, that inspires their growth and makes the world a better place.
Inspirational leadership is falling in love with the process of inspiring others and leading them with passion and joy, continuously willing, and actively supporting, the good of the other. Leadership is not a formula or a model. It is not a "system" or a "process" that can be copied without connection to the heart. It is a way of being. And when it is inspiring, it flows from our essential self.
When we use the term "leader," it is meant to be synchronous with parent, teacher, executive, minister, politician, counselor, friend, son or daughter, husband or wife—even simply with "human being." We are all leaders. We are all called to lead in almost every aspect and stage of our lives, and inspiring leadership is an essential ingredient of every part of life.
Inspirational leadership builds relationships, forms friendships, changes thinking and philosophies, gives birth to new ideas, and shapes lives and hearts. As children, we are leaders—at school, in sports, in our pastimes, and in our friendships. As we grow and become parents, we are invited to assume new leadership responsibilities. We are called to lead at home, in our places of worship, in our corporations, in our communities, and in our countries. Inspirational leadership changes the world.
Leadership is an inside job—when awareness of this is weak, it is less than inspiring, but once the awareness of this is strong, great leadership can be practiced. Inspirational leadership flows from the soul and elevates the souls of others.
Engaging the Soul
In order to engage the soul, we must ask questions that go beyond the personality or the ego, such as,
* "What am I communicating when I am not speaking?"
* "What am I teaching when I am simply being"?
* "How can I serve?"
* "How can I make the world a better place?"
And we must be rigorously objective with the answers we hear after asking these questions, and then ask if we are satisfied with them.
Asking subtle, soul-centered questions like these is a sign that the leader within has been awakened, is becoming conscious, and is getting ready to lead others from a place of inner wisdom, authenticity, and integrity, rather than from a superficial, parroted approach to leadership that lacks substance and roots.
As Rabbi Zusya so eloquently put it, "In the world to come, I shall not be asked, "Why were you not Moses?" I shall be asked, "Why were you not Zusya?"
©2010. The Secretan Center Inc.
The Spark, the Flame, and the Torch: Inspire Self. Inspire Others. Inspire the World
by Lance H.K. Secretan.
About the Author
Dr. Lance Secretan is the former CEO of a Fortune 100 company, university professor, award-winning columnist and author of more than 14 books about inspiration and leadership. He is an executive coach to leaders globally and works intensely with organizations and their leadership teams to transform their culture into the most inspirational in their industries. Dr. Secretan is the recipient of many awards, including the International Caring Award, whose previous winners include, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter and Dr. Desmond Tutu. Lance is an expert skier, kayaker and mountain biker, and he divides his time between homes in Ontario and Colorado. Visit his website at www.secretan.com.