Monday, February 12, 2007

The 5 Spires of Leadership

Leadership is one of those qualities that is so hard to measure. Yet, in life and in business, great leaders are not hard to spot. They are those who have the ability to seize their potential as well as release the potential in those around them. They bring individuals together to form a cohesive team and align diverse talents and energies in pursuit of a common goal. They inspire people to give their all to group initiatives, not because they have to, but because they want to.

As I was thinking about inspiring leaders, I began to realize that leaders do a lot more 'spiring' than just 'in-spiring'.

Leaders must first aspire, then perspire. They must conspire and inspire in order to transpire.

Do you know that the 'spire' part of these words comes from the Latin spīrāre meaning to breathe? I began to think about it. A true leader must first have their own aspiration.

Aspire: derived from the Latin word aspīrāre which means to breathe upon or pant after. It means to have a great ambition or ultimate goal; desire strongly... to long, aim, or seek ambitiously.

When you choose to follow someone, you usually choose someone who is going somewhere. You are drawn to those people who have 'great ambition' and are pursuing a goal of higher value than their own rewards.

Perspire: derived from the Latin word perspīrāre which means to blow constantly (said of the wind), breathe through. And, of course, we know this is mean to emit through pores; exude as a result of strenuous exertion.

We want to follow leaders who aren't afraid of doing the work necessary to get the job done. How many times have you seen people in positions of leadership who believe that leadership is just bossing other people around and telling them where to go and what to do? As soon as these 'leaders' turn their backs, their 'followers' are going another direction. They are the types of leaders who go running after their subordinates saying "Come on. Follow me!! I'm your leader!" True leaders get the job done and set great examples for their followers.

Inspire: comes from the Latin word inspīrāre which means to breathe upon or into. When someone inspires us they stimulate us to action and fill us with arousing emotion.

We follow leaders who draw us in to their cause and make us feel as though we are an integral part of the solution. It's not just a practical, rational ambition. It's an ambition that stirs your emotions... stirs your soul. They somehow breathe life into us and inspire us to move and act in a way that accomplishes "our" goal. Yes, "our" goal - not simply their goal.

Conspire: comes from the Latin word conspīrāre which means to act in harmony; to breathe with. When we conspire, we act or work together toward the same result or goal.

In today's western society, conspire usually has negative connotations associated with it. In the American Heritage Dictionary the first definition is "To plan together secretly to commit an illegal or wrongful act or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action". Yet, if we look further, we'll find that the next definition states, 'To join or act together; combine: "Semisweet chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso, Cognac, and vanilla all conspire to intensify the cake's flavor".' (Did I make you hungry with that one?)

Doesn't that last definition sound like a metaphor for what great leaders do. Great leaders know that to accomplish their ambitions and that they can't do it alone. Great leaders bring individuals together with diverse tastes and talents to form a cohesive team aligning their collective energies in pursuit of a common goal.

Transpire: from its earlier literal sense “to escape as vapor”. However, transpire came to mean “to escape from concealment, become known”.

When a leader is able to aspire, perspire, inspire and conspire, they will inevitably transpire their great ambition. Their ultimate goal will be revealed and come to fruition. This result comes about not because of the leader's efforts alone, but because the leader was able to rally a group of people around their goal, not because they had to but because they wanted to. This allowed everyone to play their part in the grand production of the mission.

Today, ask yourself...

  • Have you aspired for something greater than yourself?
  • Have you perspired enough to set a good example?
  • Is your aspiration great enough to inspire others to join you?
  • Are you open to conspiring with others to achieve your lofty goal?
  • Can you envision your mission at the moment it transpires and reveals itself to the world?

Make today a day of 'spiring' for you!

If you do, you will soon reach your spire: a tall, acutely pointed pyramidal roof upon a tower; the highest point or summit of your aspiration.

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