Inspiration is important, but we can’t depend on it showing up when needed. It comes and goes, like a ferral cat who roams looking for a bite to eat. We can feel inspiration waxing and waning within us, and the inspiration from the outside world can’t be counted upon to show up on a regular basis. However the important work that we need to do in our projects, and in life in general, remains – independent of whether we happen to be inspired to do it. That’s why I have chosen to be inspired by my commitments. The commitments of a person of integrity are solid, powerful and lasting. These kinds of commitments carry the weight of reputation and intention. They are everpresent. If you lead inspired by your commitments it doesn’t matter whether we’re tired, feeling disheartened, low on energy, unappreciated, or frustrated by circumstances. The commitments that we have made call us to action. This is mighty handy when we can’t afford to wait for inspiration!
When we rely solely on external sources of inspiration, such as other people, positive feedback, the positive results of our work, we give away our power. If you’re a gifted painter and no one wants to buy your works, should you stop painting? If you’re a talented musician and no one wants to pay you for your music, should you stop writing or singing? And if you are a dedicated project leader working on a project that truly matters, but that people do not acknowledge, support or appreciate, should you do a crappy job, give up hope, and leave gesturing wildly into the air with one particular finger? I don’t think so. (OK, if the project DOESN’T matter, maybe go with the finger thing.)
Mother Theresa was this kind of leader. A couple of the sayings purported to be among her favorites are “Despite giving your best to the world, you may be kicked in the teeth. Give the best you’ve got anyway.” and “Years of your hard work may be destroyed overnight. That should not deter you from building upon your hard work.” Mother Theresa was not relying on inspiration to get her out of bed in the morning, and she wasn’t relying on positive feedback, encouragement or support. Nope, she knew who she was and what she was committed to doing, and she got up every day and did it. Period.
What kind of leader are you? What are you committed to more than your comfort or the approval of your colleagues, friends, or the world in general? And what’s your commitment worth? If you’re only committed when you’re inspired, well, that’s a bit dicey. But if you are wholeheartedly committed when you give your word, and your word is tightly bound up with your integrity, then you have a chance of living up to your commitments whether or not you happen to have a source of inspiration in your life.
And here’s a bit of a kōan for you . . . what if you are ‘committed to being inspiring’? (I guess that’s kinda like saying that you are living vicariously through yourself.) If you are committed to being truly and authentically inspiring then your team can depend on you to inspire them when they need it, whether or not you yourself feel inspired. Now that’s something a great leader should ASPIRE to!
Aspiring to inspire,
Want to get even scrappier? Check out all 5 “Scrappy Guides“, including August’s Scrappy Women in Business by me and 11 gal pals, Scrappy General Management by Michael Horton, released in October, and Scrappy Business Contingency Planning by Michael Seese, released in November 2010.