Five Principles of Inspirational Leadership

David Greenberg

Here is another contribution to the “Talent Management Perpsectives” series by David Greenberg as featured in Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the magazine and/or to Chief Learning Officer magazine (both published by MefiaTec), please click here.

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We all know that people are by far an organization’s most important asset: If the right people are in the right job, those individuals — and the organization — can flourish. So how can we ensure that the “talent mindset” is at the forefront of a business’ thoughts and processes?

It all begins with leadership. Organizations can adopt these five principles of inspirational leadership to help unleash the true strengths of their people.

Pursue significance. People want to believe in what they do. It is no longer enough to simply work for a paycheck — people want a career and a calling. Though philosophers and social scientists have known this for decades, it has taken a while for this pursuit of significance to trickle down to the business world. If people take pride in their jobs and find meaning in their work, inherent passion will drive them to create success as a byproduct of their journey.

Lead through culture. Culture is not just an interesting concept; it is at the core of what sustains a business. Yet culture has either been ignored or underestimated for decades. Culture drives choices, decisions, performance and the way business is conducted. Culture is the way “things really happen around this place” — and it cannot be controlled by a set of rules and regulations. Culture can be a product of an organization’s highest aspirations and most deeply held values, but that requires the hard work of translating mission, purpose and values into tangible, measurable behaviors. Culture can be measured and driven as a concrete, purposeful strategy.

Extend trust. Trust in business is at an all-time low. Yet we are at a time when we’re asking big things of our employees. These “big asks” — such as global collaboration — require risk taking. But risk taking must be predicated on trust or it will not happen. If leaders stand with hands on hips and ask their people to earn trust, the process will be slow and the progress minimal. Inspirational leaders extend trust to their people, which in turn creates engagement, loyalty and the right kind of risk taking. The benefits are considerable: A recent study compared the time and cost of doing business with high- and low-trust partners; the low-trust relationships were characterized by high costs — six times greater — and low speed.

Boost transparency. We live in a world that is hyperconnected and hypertransparent — a world of social networking driven by a generation that grew up with Google, Facebook and 24/7 news. Companies must adapt or they will always be fighting a defensive, losing battle. An inspirational leader acts on sustainable values and therefore has nothing to hide. That needs to be a cornerstone of the way 21st-century companies operate.

Connect and collaborate. Thriving in today’s world requires an unprecedented degree of connection and collaboration — across functions, borders and stakeholders. Whether virtually or in person, communities form only when people are connected. This connection cannot be one way and should involve conversations and decision making that make people feel that their opinions are being heard and considered. It’s not about commands and being isolated in the corner office; it is about listening, asking good questions, responding and having a visible leadership presence.

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David Greenberg is the executive vice president of knowledge and solutions at LRN, a company that helps businesses develop ethical corporate cultures and inspire principled performance. He can be reached at

Note: Dov Seidman
is founder, chairman, and CEO LRN and 
as well as the author of How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything…in Business (and in Life)

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