"The heart and soul of leadership - the essence of inspiring others."
Those words of John J Murphy, from his book, "Leading with Passion", epitomise my definition of leadership.
So when I read them again this morning in their full context, I felt I just had to share them with you. Murphy says, "Light a match in a dark room and watch as the light instantly overcomes the darkness. Observe the power and grace of that single, solitary flame dancing with life. Now light several candles or kindle a fire and experience the added warmth and comfort extending from that first, vulnerable flame through others. This is the heart and soul of leadership - the essence of inspiring others." (If you want to read more for yourself, click on this link.)
I am sure you will agree that is a beautiful image. More important, however, is what it symbolises. For as a leader your power does not lie in the size of your flame, or the power of your flare, but in the number of candles you light or the fire you start. That is where your leadership legacy lies.
Murphy calls it leading with passion. I prefer to call it "zeal" because passion can be too fleeting and too misguided. Although zeal can also be used to portray the negative, for me it conjures up a sense of greater rationality and empiricism. After all, a dictionary definition of zeal is "great energy or enthusiasm for a cause" and it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" while Norman Vincent Peale said, "There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and achievement."
However, whichever word you prefer, as a leader you must:-
- Have it yourself; and
- Be able to inspire it in others.
Thus a lack of employee engagement is indicative of failed leadership. It is de facto evidence of an inability to inspire - an inability to create enthusiasm.
So you need to ask yourself, "How bright is my flame? What am I doing to create enthusiasm? What fires am I lighting?" After all, you cannot create the shared values to build a culture of employee engagement unless you do. And that means you will never realise the full potential of the talent at your disposal.