What Inspires You to Be Your Best As A Leader?

May 01, 2014  |   Leadership   |     |   0 Comment

When I reflect on the leaders I have worked with in my various careers, I go immediately to my best and worst experiences.  I have had many bosses over the years and some I have come to admire greatly while others…well, let’s just say I learned how I don’t want to lead.  However, I can honestly say that all of my experiences have provided good learning in my ongoing quest to strengthen my own leadership competencies.

My experiences of course are mine, and what motivates me may or may not motivate others, but growing one’s leadership skills starts with wanting to be a good leader.  If you don’t care about leadership (and sadly some in leadership positions don’t care), then you will be ineffective in your ability to engage your employees.   

What makes some people care about leading effectively while others don’t?  I am always fascinated by this question.  For me, leading effectively has been a long standing interest and an area I strive to grow in.  One of my former colleagues, who later became my supervisor, used to jokingly say …”Heather is the only person I know who reads leadership books for fun.”  I don’t know what drives others to want to lead effectively, but my observations suggest that those who are great at motivating and leading others are those that keep the success of the organization at the forefront of everything they do, they care about people (I mean really care) and they see their own success as secondary.  Effective leaders know their success is dependent on their ability to motivate others to want to do their best and to want to contribute to the success of the organization.  They consistently treat others as valued and respected counterparts regardless of position held within the organization.         

When I work with clients who want to grow their leadership skills, one of my first assignments is to ask them to reflect on their experiences as an employee, noting the managers/supervisors who have inspired them over the course of their career.  Secondly, we work to identify specific behaviours these leaders displayed that influenced them as employees.  Of course, the purpose of this is to be thoughtful in recognizing what motivated them as employees, understanding why it motivated them and incorporating what is applicable into their own leadership practices. 

When I reflect on leaders who ignite my passion and enthusiasm for the organization and the work I am charged with, these are the qualities that make a difference for me:

  • They are positive, bringing energy of ‘can do’ to work every day.
  • They make me feel valued by communicating to me that the work I do matters, and that together we are making a difference.
  • They are clear about what I am accountable for and what they expect of me.
  • They are not afraid to make decisions.
  • They engage me by asking for my input on a regular basis.
  • They recognize the need to prioritize – not everything is viewed as a priority!
  • They never do my thinking for me, which empowers me to believe in my own ability to solve problems, create strategies, and move the agenda forward.
  • They refer to me as their colleague – not their staff, employee or subordinate.
  • They are appreciative and I know this because they say thank you!
  • They tell me the hard things I need to hear, and they do so with kindness because they care about me as an individual and they care about our relationship.
  • They are honest and forthright when they make a mistake.
  • They can be vulnerable which takes great courage.
  • They are humble, they listen, and they are self-reflective individuals.

What are the leadership qualities that make a difference for you as an employee?


1. Interview 10 colleagues (include supervisors, colleagues and direct reports) and ask each the following:

  • To list your top 5 leaderships qualities from their experiences of working with you.
    • Ask them why these qualities are important to them and what difference they make?
  • To provide you with 5 suggestions for strengthening your leadership skills.
    • Ask them to share how strengthening these leadership skills will make a difference to them in their work and their work environment?

2. Interview 3 leaders you admire and respect with a purpose to explore what they did to develop their leadership skills.

3. Commit to formalizing a mentor relationship with a leader you admire and respect.