We have a leadership problem
When was the last time your boss inspired you to do great work? Not told you to work. Not paid you to work.
If you are like most employees, it has been a while.
And even though the work still gets done, it just doesn’t have the same feel to it. You cannot fake inspiration. So why are our leaders so bad at it?
It’s our aspirations that changed. While workers in the 20th century mainly saw their jobs as a means to an end and the prospect of “making money” was motivation enough, we now expect something more from work. Putting food on the table and paying off the mortgage just isn’t enough anymore. We increasingly see “making money” as a given and look for the deeper meaning beyond the obvious cashflow.
Leadership, aspiration and inspiration
Leadership fails when there is no inspiring message. And Inspiration fails if the message fails to match our aspirations. In a time where money is secondary, leaders and bosses need to realise that it is time to put more emphasis on their employees’ actual needs.
- They value a great sense of community at work over constant promotions.
- They value growing skills and self esteem over growing revenue.
- They value a clear company mission over a clear sales target.
Leaders need to acknowledge that we have reached the pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid of needs.
Yes, we need money to take care of our physiological and safety needs. But what we really care about now is the social, esteem and self-fulfilment aspect of work. We want to mingle with like-minded people, we want to grow as a person and most of all, we want to feel like we deliver work that matters. This is what inspires us to not only do what we are asked to, but to go beyond that and deliver our best work. And the leaders of today must be ready to deliver all this in order to succeed.
Where modern leadership works
And if you think that it all of this sounds nice in theory, but just doesn’t work that way in real life – well, just look at places like Silicon Valley.
It is crammed with people that are highly educated, brilliant minds who could make a lot of money working for Microsoft, IBM or other established companies. And yet many of them choose the opposite route: working long hours for an underfinanced start-up for minimum wage. Why do these people do that? It’s because this is exactly the kind of job that matches their aspirations! They get a great community of young, smart, driven people; They gain confidence and recognition through working on complex problems; and they work towards a long-term goal that they can identify themselves with.
This is how inspiration and leadership should work in all work places!