I often start a conversation about leadership and what it means to me with my belief that my role is to capture someone’s imagination and paint a picture of what can be. It is about inspiring and being inspiring.
One of the perks of my advancing years is that I can think of a number of people and events which have inspired me, which I wish to share with you. Why? Because I believe that if we are to inspire others we need to feel inspired ourselves.
As you can imagine, with two careers spanning over 40 years of work, it would be too much to include everything and everyone who has inspired me, so here are my Top 10:
1. Family. My wife, Joyce, and my two daughters, Jennifer and Bettina all inspire me with their passion and courage in so many ways too many to list in this post, so I will keep it to one each to represent how they capture my imagination to do more and be more.
- Joyce – 10 years ago Bettina had her first seizure, it was a shock and there was no warning, we didn’t know at that time she had epilepsy. I felt a type of panic I had not felt before even though I had supported lots of people with epilepsy. Joyce was cool, calm and in control – pretty much how she is every day. I ‘joke’ that when I grow up I want to be like her.
- Jennifer – Perhaps the most creative and talented person I know. She is an artist, a comedy writer; she has a beautiful singing voice; is an actress; a born leader; a great role model and a wonderful advocate for her younger sister. But you might never know that she has these talents and gifts because she is so modest and humble – thankfully she does not read my blogs as I would be in big trouble if she knew I was telling you how awesome she is.
- Imagine your world if you found the world you live in bewildering to you, what you hear is difficult to decipher, how to communicate, how you feel and how you think is so difficult to translate with the people who are around you. Bettina, who copes with autism, has to do this 24/7 but she does it with courage, humour, cheerfulness and love and Bettina has taught me so much.
2. People who I have worked for. During my years in the army my bosses changed every two years (sometimes more). So as you can imagine there are lots to choose from. Each person I have worked for I have tried taking with me something that makes them inspirational. I can’t remember some of the things they said to me, but I can remember how they made me feel. My 2 tips to you:
- Do not lose contact with those leaders you worked for that inspired you – keep them within your network. Ask them to be your mentors. Just because you have stopped working for them doesn’t mean you can’t be inspired by them.
- Look for inspiring people to work for. I work for someone who has inspired me for the last 12 years
3. Leaders of the past. What has helped to inspire me is to seek out stories about inspirational leaders. I want to find out how they inspired and moved their followers. I have found a theme:
- They have suffered lots of failure and picked themselves up
- They face adversity
- They love people
- I recommend anything about Sir Ernest Shackleton a Polar Explorer from the beginning 20th Century who was both inspirational and a great leader. When I am in a difficult situation his experience gives me perspective and inspiration.
4. My sport. For the last 30 years I have been a runner and an athlete until the age of 40. I am still a regular runner always planning my comeback. It inspires me to exceed my physical and mental limits every day. My top tip:
- Find a bit of countryside that hardly anyone uses – be at one with yourself, take deep breaths, feel the silence, looks at the scenery around you and think!
5. Other cultures on my travels. As a young man I was fortunate to live in other people’s countries for 12 years. What helped me shape some of my thoughts on leadership and inspired me was my time in Hong Kong from 1979 – 1981. I immersed myself in their culture – have you heard of ‘Face’ giving face, losing face and taking face? Next time you are in touch ask me about it. I continue to adopt it in all my communication and it has worked for me. There is something we can learn and be inspired by other people’s cultures. Actively seek these experiences
6. Working with young people. Mixing with people who are just starting out on their leadership journeys. Their enthusiasm and fresh perspective will inspire you and also remind you how you felt when you started on your journey.
7. The things I listen to. I do lots of travelling across the country – most of it in my car. I have a wallet full of CDs I listen to from Success.com a USA magazine. They include interviews from some of US leading thinkers. There is a different theme on each of my CDs. I am currently listening to speakers on ‘Innovation’ all of the interviews are inspirational and they come with ‘take-away’ interviewees personal top tips. I must admit I have used quite a few within www.dosh.org
8. My first career. As I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog, I fulfilled a childhood dream of joining the British Army, a career that lasted 24 years. I was inspired (I still am) by its history, traditions, values, discipline and putting others before me.
9. People I work with. I am fortunate that I am surrounded by talent in www.dosh.org I am constantly inspired by their passion, commitment, skills and perseverance to make a difference and a contribution to people they support.
10. My organisation; Thera www.thera.co.uk Vision Statement is that our organisation will be led by people with learning disabilities. 40% of Thera’s Directors are people with a learning disability. This captured my imagination when I joined Thera in 2006, especially being a parent of a person with learning disabilities, and this means a lot to me.
So you can see it really is closer than you might think. Where do you get your inspiration from?
My challenge to you is to inspire at least one person every day. Why not share how you did this with our leadership community on this blog?