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Leadership That Inspires

by Carol Orsborn

No matter how hard I try to conduct inspiring staff meetings, they fall flat. What can I do to inspire my staff?

An entire branch of the management consulting industry has been built on helping business identify, nurture, and sustain the characteristics of a good leader who can inspire his or her subordinates. The definition of what these characteristics are has varied from one year to the next. Should the leader have superior technical expertise? Market knowledge? Should he or she be a tough disciplinarian, inspiring the troops to exceed the limitation of their existing expectations? Or is a softer approach - a more nurturing, compassionate relationship to subordinates - the way to go?

The leader does
not take classes
in order to
Rather, he or she
has earned a
leadership role
because he or
she is inspired.
In tackling the response to this question, I am inspired by Rolf Osterberg, who recently considered the issue of leadership in his book Corporate Renaissance. In brief he declined to play the game, believing that it would be wrong to attempt to define the characteristics of leadership in this way. “Why? Because we are discussing human beings, not human being in a certain situation. So what we are really searching for is a definition of a good human being. From that I abstain.”

What we do know of Osterberg’s leader is that he or she manages in a new paradigm, where “the measure of a man’s work is not what he has obtained from it, but what he has become of it.

“We do not exist to obtain things - to amass money, to gain position and power, to collect possessions and thereby prove our worth to ourselves and others; we exist to learn, to develop and to grow as human beings.”

In this new paradigm, the leader does not take classes in order to become inspirational, rather he or she has earned a leadership role because he or she is inspired.

In the next issue, I will address conflicting workplace demands, and how to set priorities that honor all of your needs - physical, emotional and spiritual.

Invocation for Inspiring Others

May I recognize that when I inspire people, it is not because of what I do, but because of who I am. I inspire people:

  • when I share my genuine enthusiasm for life by listening and receiving as well as by giving and telling
  • when I have the courage to say what needs to be said, remembering that it is my action not my words that carry the message
  • when I’m willing to expose more of who I really am with trust and vulnerability, even when it stretches me beyond my own comfort level
  • when I remember that inspiring people has nothing to do with what I want from them, but rather has to do with opening the space for them to move beyond their own fears to go for what they really want

Carol Orsborn is the author of Inner Excellence At Work: The Path to Meaning, Spirit and Success (Amacom Books, Fall ‘99) and How Would Confucius Ask for a Raise?, from which this column is excerpted. She may be reached at 615-321-8890, e-mail and visit her website at

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