• Danny Gallagher @ Misthios Media

Business in Japan: What Inspiring Leaders Do Differently

Being a leader is already tough, but it can be even tougher to develop into a truly inspiring leader.

There are certain things that inspiring leaders do differently than typical individuals in a leadership role.

Read on to explore what separates inspiring leaders from the rest of the pack, and you just might be able to work towards becoming an inspiring leader yourself.

Inspiring Leaders Are Passionate

At Misthios Media we understand the etymology of the word “passion” is rooted in suffering.

Contrary to how the masses use the word, when someone is “passionate” about something, it means they’re willing to suffer to see it through. Basically, we care about this goal or dream so much, that the pain is worth it.

Leaders who allow their passion to take the wheel, motivate those who’re too timid to drive themselves. Passion drives the world’s most successful visionaries because when entrepreneurship throws its inevitable curveballs, it is passion that influences us to rage, rage against the dying light!

A manager who is passionate about what they do doesn’t seek out motivation from others, because they don’t need to. They’re inspired. Motivation is a source of external drive, while inspiration comes from within (internal).

“Leaders who allow their passion to take the wheel, motivate those who’re too timid to drive themselves.”

Showcasing passion is one of the best ways to inspire others to give it their all. If you’re passionate about the work that you’re doing, then that passion is going to rub off on others. Inspirational leaders are truly dedicated to the causes that they’re working for.

Inspiring Leaders Remain Positive

Ralph Marston, a famous soccer player turned motivational writer/speaker, once said, “Being positive in a negative situation isn’t naive. It’s leadership.”

He’s not wrong! There is plenty of data to backup how positivity affects leadership. The Harvard Business Review references a study from a decade ago out of the University of Michigan that found "positive and virtuous practices" can improve workplace performance. 

The study, published in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, discovered that the best practices stem from the belief in inherent human decency. Kim Cameron, Associate Dean of Executive Education, says those in charge are wise to treat others with respect, trust, and integrity; care for employees; be kind and compassionate when colleagues and employees are hurting; practice forgiveness and avoid blame; and inspire employees to find a greater meaning in life and work.

Cameron claims that doing so benefits companies in a plethora of ways. "When organizations institute positive, virtuous practices, they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness--including financial performance, customer satisfaction, and productivity," he says in the study. "The more the virtuousness, the higher the performance in profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement."

Being positive has the ability to inspire others to keep moving forward. Inspiring leaders are capable of using positivity to help people focus on working toward goals. They’re able to keep their spirit (and the spirit of their team) strong, even during extremely difficult and stressful situations.

Inspiring Leaders Are Able to Listen

There are three ways of listening.

Most people listen only to respond. They’re not interested in what the other person is trying to communicate, and are merely waiting their turn to speak. This is called “listening in the first way.”

A genuine interest in what someone has to say requires our full attention. Distractions must be cut out, or we risk getting lost in our own inner monologue. When we listen to understand, but are not fully absorbing what was said, we’re “listening in the second way.”

In leadership however, “listening in the third way” is the key to inspiring our followers. This a kind of active, reflective listening that not only requires our undivided attention, but also access to our emotional intelligence.

"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand." – Karl A. Menniger

Great leaders empathize with their followers. They’re not just listening to understand – they’re listening with the intent to feel. In the workplace, employees want to work for a manager that keeps their best interests close to their heart. They feel, before they think.

Listening is something that every leader should take the time to be better at. Communication is crucial when you’re responsible for others, and listening is part of communicating effectively. You need to be able to listen to others and understand what they’re saying to be a truly inspiring leader.

Inspiring Leaders Express Gratitude

Our physical, mental, and emotional health is crucial to reaching our maximum potential in the workplace. A healthy employee equates to a healthy team player. Healthy team players, ultimately lead to a healthy team.

Lauren Fisher of Benefit Express writes that gratitude in the workplace creates better leaders because the expression of gratitude has profound and positive effects on our health and moods. This well-being translates to happier employees and an overall better work environment.

Fisher notes that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (UP) conducted an experiment on fundraising callers and found that grateful leaders were able to motivate their employees to make 50% more successful calls, proving that a simple “Thank you” to your team, really does go a long way.

When your team feels appreciated, their stress greatly diminishes, and their productivity vastly increases. Robert Boyd, the CTO of Outcry.io suggests these five tips for attitude of gratitude at work:

  1. Always make sure your praise is specific.

  2. Keep it consistent.

  3. Send thank you notes.

  4. Foster a culture of recognition.

  5. Understand what employees really want.

Having a leader who showcases gratitude when employees work hard, will make them want to give it their all. An inspiring leader will be truly grateful for the efforts of their team. Little gestures that demonstrate gratitude can go a long way toward keeping employees happy, healthy, motivated, and inspired.

Inspiring Leaders Are Honest

“Honesty is the best policy.”

Simple and cliche, but probably one of the truest statements made.

People trust honest people. As human beings, we’re hardwired to lie as a form of survival and self-preservation. Rather than risk a hit to our pride, the risk of shame or guilt, or even just inconvenience – we tell untruths to protect ourselves.

When the people we follow (leaders) lie to us, it erodes the respect we have for them. In the workplace, a manager who constantly withholds the truth lacks integrity, because their words hold no value. A man or woman whose words mean nothing, lacks the power to enroll and influence others.

Mary Juetten, CEO of Traklight, reminds us that even though “honesty is the best policy” is one of the oldest in the proverbial book, its longevity speaks to its wisdom. She warns leaders not to cave to the human impulse of overpromising and overselling, as it almost always a surefire way to sink your team’s ship.

Juetten claims that even when we have the best of intentions, failing to meet the promises we’ve made and not delivering will leave our reputation in the mud. Ultimately, our peers will form a natural distrust and a belief that their leader cannot follow through.

Check out this great piece Juetten wrote on The Saga of Theranos – the revolutionary biotech startup that “could have been” had its CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, been honest and transparent with her team, peers, and investors.

Being honest with our team is of the utmost importance. No one is going to trust a leader with zero integrity. An inspiring leader ensures their actions align with their words, and are always up front about what is going on.

Inspiring Leaders Have a Vision for the Future

Dreams are powerful. They’re the ultimate inspiration to push harder, dig deeper, and never giving up when times are tough.

Unfortunately, life can be brutal, and when it rains, it pours. Compounding stress can beat down even the greatest of lifes’ warriors, so having a vision for “the endgame” is our lifeline to success. When we have something to strive for, it makes it easier to keep going.

All inspiring leaders have a vision for tomorrow. Even when there is a metaphorical fog in the workplace, they project into the future with absolute certainty and clarity. When their followers witness this next-level confidence, they’re much more willing to take orders and complete tasks with self-belief of their own.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey where they asked tens of thousands of working people two questions:

  1. “What do you look for and admire in a leader (defined as someone whose direction you would willingly follow)?”

  2. “What do you look for and admire in a colleague (defined as someone you’d like to have on your team)?”

For question number one, “honesty” was the top-ranking attribute of a both an admired leader and an admired colleague. However, the second-highest requirement of an admired leader asked that he/she be “forward-looking,” but it didn’t rank the same for the definition of an admired colleague.

Only a mere 27% of surveyees claimed that having a vision (“forward-looking”) was something they desired in a colleague, as opposed to a whopping 72% majority that demanded it in a leader. Not surprisingly, surveyees with more-senior positions in their corporate hierarchy had an even higher percentage, at 88%. No other quality showed such a dramatic difference between leader and colleague.

Inspiring others to work toward goals is easier when a leader has a vision for the future. Our followers look to us to share that vision with them, even if they’re not conscious of it. If our far-sight is inspiring, then it’ll be that much easier to bring others in to work for our cause.

The original blog post can be found here.


Daniel "Danny" Gallagher is a professional storyteller, producer, and creative director with a decade of experience in branding, marketing, and consumer psychology. Gallagher spearheads the collective at Misthios Media and is the acting Marketing Director for Mask With A Mission. He is also the key activator for the For The Love Of Versace immersive art and fashion experience.

Danny currently resides in Honolulu, Hawaii, and has devoted his life to influencing others through storytelling that matters. He plans to call Tokyo, Japan "home" in early 2021.

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