I received a copy of Simon Sinek’s book – Start with Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action yesterday from my son. I had recently sent it to him at the recommendation of many I respect but he was ahead of the curve and had already read it so I said send me a copy since I haven’t read it yet. I only knew Simon via his excellent Ted Talk.
In the beginning of his book and talk Simon shares several stories of great leaders from the Wright brothers to Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak to Martin Luther King Jr. He shares how people came to buy into the message they were sharing. Thousands upon thousands said yes when Dr. King said “I have a dream”. They said, we have dreams too.
Sinek emphasizes that leaders are those who lead. Many may have positions of authority, but they may not be true leaders. Leaders inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to.
I’ve shared for years that there are those in “Positional Leadership” i.e. those who hold the title perhaps of CEO, Vice-President or even manager/director… and then there are those who are influencers, with or without the title. The influencers/ true leaders are the ones who have the ear of those around them. People listen to what they have to say, both in and out of meetings. When they speak no one is rolling their eyes in contempt. When they speak, people take to heart their wisdom, because those listening also buy into their message. That message may not be the party line, but it’s almost always truth.What they say counts because people believe in them, and the ideas they are sharing. I believe we can all be influencers, those who inspire others to bigger things, often outside of ourselves or even our current system.
For years I have spoken with friends about the need for leadership, not just management. Managers often seems to entail herding cats, they are often short-sighted, perhaps only concerned about the current budget or staffing or this quarters profits. Leaders get the big picture. It’s not only about today or even tomorrow, what we are doing, The decisions we make today are about the future and even the future of our children and grandchildren.
Leadership thinks long term vs. short term.
Which leads us to Inspiration.
Wayne Dyer wrote these words in his book Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling:
I think of the word inspiration as meaning “being in-Spirit.” When we’re in-Spirit, we’re inspired…and when we’re inspired, it’s because we’re back in-Spirit,fully awake to Spirit within us. Being inspired is an experience of joy: we feel completely connected to our Source and totally on purpose; our creative juices flow, and we bring exceptionally high energy to our daily life. We’re not judging others or ourselves—we’re uncritical and unbothered by behaviors or attitudes that in uninspired moments are frustrating. Our heart sings in appreciation for every breath; and we’re tolerant, joyful, and loving.
What a nice word.
And you know this truth, there are times when you are in the presence of others and you basically catch their spirit. In many ways their spirit is contagious. You feel their energy, their enthusiasm, and it reassures you that there is much more out there than the daily doldrums we often endure.
The word enthusiasm come from Latin and Greek roots which meant En (in) Theos (God) in us. When we are enthusiastic it is often the work of the spirit within to connect us to our creator, the giver of all life. When we lose our enthusiasm it is often because we are so deeply entrenched in the issues of our daily lives, we have failed to be connected adequately to our true source of life, Spirit.
Spirit is also an interesting word. In Greek it is Pneuma, the word we use for Pneumatic, as in air tools; you know the tools they use to put on your lug nuts when removing and replacing your tires at Pep Boys or some other tire store. For many of you that whirring sound of their air wrench is familiar. It sounds powerful in a way, because it is, it’s using the power of the wind in a compressed form.
Which is the essence of Spirit. Spirit is wind or breath. Without spirit we stop breathing. To inspire others is to help them catch their breath.
Gordon MacDonald wrote a wonderful book years ago entitled Renewing Your Spiritual Passion.
In it he share these truths:
There are leaders out there who inspire us, we actually catch our spirit from them. They inspire (put spirit in) us.
There are colleagues and friends who actually share our spirit. We are often iron sharpening iron upon each other.
There are those we have the opportunity to mentor and speak into their lives, they actually catch our spirit.
And then there are two other types of folks- Nice people and Draining people.
Nice people like us, but they never actually get our spirit. They want to be around us but they never quite get it. No matter how much time we spend with them.
Draining people probably need no introduction. I’m sure as you read those words your mind immediately went to those who drain you of your energy, your life force, your spirit. Psychiatrist Judith Orloff actually calls them Energy Vampires. They will suck you dry if you let them. And they also want to be with us more than anyone else on the list. They often knock on your door at inopportune moments, and because you are kind you respond. And they drain you once again. Because while they like us and respect us, they never quite catch our spirit.
MacDonald says our struggle is that usually we only spend about 20% of our time with those who inspire us, or share our spirit or catch our spirit. He says we end up giving up to 80% of our time to those who never get it.
I believe we should re-evaluate how we are spending our time.
Are you living an inspired life?
Who is breathing life into you?
Who has your ear, who speaks life into you?
Who are you speaking life into?
I believe answering these simple questions can help each of live an inspired life, hopefully inspiring those around us.