Her name was Heather and she was a swim wear model. She wasn’t the most obvious choice for a conference speaker. She stood at the front of the stage and spoke to an audience of about a thousand senior managers and board members. She spoke for approximately 45 minutes without notes. She was serious and funny, honest, angry and interesting.
She talked about the accident in a very matter of fact way. Then she explained about how every step of the way through her recovery and rehabilitation she had to fight. Fight to be heard, fight to be taken seriously, fight to challenge other people’s view of what was best for her. The message was listen to the service user/patent/ customer, respect their views, help them to follow their choices even if you think they are the wrong choices.
It was inspirational and the fact that I can remember it some 25 years later is testament to the impact it had on me. Over the course of many years as a senior manager I must have heard hundreds of conference speeches by chief executives, business leaders and senior government officials some were entertaining, some were controversial, some were interesting but only that one was truly inspirational.
So when I read that leaders inspire and managers motivate I wonder if we have unrealistic expectations. Do we really think that every time a chief executive addresses an audience they are going to send people away inspired. Must every team meeting re energise staff and send them out full of enthusiasm and optimism.
If you’re waiting for some one / your manager to light your fire at work then you will probably be disappointed it’s only happens very occasionally. You have to seek out inspiration and you have to find the motivation with in yourself. I have worked for many excellent managers who have on occasion challenged my thinking, fired my enthusiasm and made me feel optimistic about the future. They have also disappointed me and frustrated me as no doubt I have those I managed.
Yes leaders do need to be able to describe the future they wish to create and get you as excited about that future as they are. Yes your manager wants to encourage you to give of your best, not to get discouraged when things are going against you and the team and to be positive about work. And with varying degrees of success they will. But you also have a responsibility to light your fire.