In his new book ‘Inspirators’, Pete Cohen promises to crack the code for becoming an inspiring leader, so we caught up with him to find out more about how to motivate those around you, and live your vision. For him, leaders are not the dictators, or mere managers: ‘Being an Inspirator is about being inspired by something in front of you that you breathe life into.’ Whether that’s your new startup, or a creative project, Cohen thinks that leading change can breed more than success.
‘The answer to most of the world’s problems are about people being inspired and making a change, otherwise we are driven by stress and anxiety.’ So, here’s how you can become an inspiring person too:
1. Know Your People
The first thing to do when becoming an inspiring leader is to realise what people want. Pete Cohen has worked with high achieving leaders from business and sport, from BAA to the Arsenal Football team, so he knows what drives people. ‘Most people want three things: autonomy, mastery and purpose. So for people and organisations to flourish, people need to feel that they can be themselves,’ he says.
The other thing to realise is that your people need to have a hand in what defines your business. ‘A leader understands that people want to be a part of creating that vision, they want to feel that they have a purpose to play in what is happening, and they want mastery – they want to be able to get better at something.’
‘When you’re inspired you are breathing something to life that you can see, something that is in the future’
2. Don’t Manage, Lead
To manage is not necessarily to lead. Managing a resource (people, in this case) can be a dry, technical exercise in some organisations – there it will never be inspirational. ‘The difference between being a manager and a leader is that the leaders who most of us would want to work for are the leaders who inspire us, because they want us to become leaders in our own right,’ says Cohen.
This becomes even more important in a fast-moving business world of start ups and disruptive companies. ‘Many more organisations are having to become multi-dimensional in terms of what people are actually able to do, and leading leaders to come forward.’
3. Connect Your Followers To Your Why
You may already know that if your startup or project has a stated purpose that is more than just a mission statement, and a strategy, then it will be more successful. Cohen thinks you can apply this to the people you are trying to lead, too. ‘Understand that individuals have a purpose but they probably don’t know what it is. Most people just end up doing what they think they should do.’
The kind of big picture questions, like “What are you here to do, what is your purpose?” that we should be asking ourselves often get shunted aside by going to work just to pay the bills. ‘If you are coming here to work and you are spending most of your time at work, surely it is important to find out what your life is really all about, what makes you come alive and seeing if in your work we can help facilitate that in some way,’ says Cohen, who says that this can replace the anxiety caused by aligning self-worth with ever shifting targets and goals.
4. Become The Leader That You Want To Follow
Success breeds success, so it pays to put yourself in a successful mindset, says Cohen. ‘My goal in writing Inspirators was people becoming the leader that they want to follow, so they can look at themselves and think, “I believe in myself.’ Because ultimately, people tend to gravitate to people like that. Not egotistical, just becoming someone who is inspired.’
Find ways to measure success that don’t place a never-lightening burden on yourself. ‘‘We need to set goals but we can also create the state of success even before the success is achieved. So rather than feeling inadequate, you start to feel good about yourself – rather than feeling the only way I am going to feel good is if I get the result that I want.’
5. Be Prepared To Work For It
A big problem when coming to lead people is lifting some individuals out of disengagement, because they may already be fighting an internal battle. ‘It’s estimated that one in four people are seriously struggling with some form of mental health challenge, and 70% of people are living in a state of perpetual stress, so to get someone out of that state takes time,’ says Cohen.
‘It’s much easier to inspire people when you show that you are actually interested in people, and you care, and you listen. None of this is rocket science but it is hard work.’
‘What is a dream? A dream is something you can see’
6. Connect With Your Ideas
For Cohen, the easy part of innovating is actually coming up with ideas. The hard part comes when you start to doubt their value or have to put emotional energy into making them happen. He recommends you actually draw, or write out your idea to the point where you can visualise it in your head. What is a dream? A dream is something you can see,’ he says.
‘Then the most challenging thing is to connect to your idea, emotionally. With supercharged emotion, like the feeling that this is something you absolutely have to do and be compelled to do. For instance, I came up with an idea a couple of days ago that is probably one of the best ideas I have ever come up with, but within a day I started to doubt that idea. So I have had to remind myself every single day, why I am doing this and what will happen as a consequence of it,’ he reveals.
When it comes to a practical way to do this, Cohen swears by meditation. ‘Wake up every day and connect – even do some form of meditation to really visualise and feel the outcome you are looking for, and be grateful for it.’
7. Build A Mastermind Alliance
The best leaders know when to ask for help, says Cohen, and he says the best way to make progress with a startup is to build a mastermind alliance. ‘Have a group of people who see that they are a part of something and all want to help each other, who ask: “How can I help you? What can I do for you? What do you need?” Having that mentality is really powerful.’
Don’t get caught in that macho mind trap of thinking that looking for help is a weakness. ‘Have a sounding board of people who you can talk to about what you are doing. Get around a group of people who will help and support you – get a mentor, get a coach. If you want to try and do all of this on your own, then good luck!’
8. Stay Humble
In the leadership coaching Pete Cohen has been doing over the last few years, he is seeing more and more great leaders who don’t actually want the label of ‘leader’. ‘One of the qualities of great leaders is that they are humble and just want to learn. There’s a fear around that because we feel that someone might take advantage of our humbleness, but I see it more and more with great leaders – they are just truly inspired to learn and to grow and be curious.’
‘They just want to be a source of inspiration to people because when you are inspired you are breathing something to life that you can see, something that is in the future, something that is in front of you. Leaders recognise that.’
9. Earn The Ultimate Brand Loyalty
Companies often focus on their customers as the ultimate target in which to inspire loyalty, but for some of the CEOs Cohen interviewed for his book, that’s missing a trick. ‘I have interviewed Glyn House, the MD of Caffe Nero, and he speaks about the ultimate brand loyalty, which is the loyalty of your own people. Companies like LinkedIn are very good at that. People wake up in the morning and go: “I can’t wait to go to work because it’s where I can be me, where I can express myself.”’
10. Grow A Network
It seems that a leader should not be judged by their number of followers, but by the number of people they are connected with, and how much they learn from each opportunity. Cohen says this will become even more important in a world where jobs for life do not exist and automation will take many people out of work entirely. ‘The biggest commodity of the future isn’t just leadership, it’s your network – who do you know and what do they know about you? If you’re always asking what can we do for you, how can we help you, and we always have that attitude then we are going to be able to grow a network that’s going to allow us to work long into our future,’ he says.
‘We all need to be going massively out of our way to connect with people, and not just on social media, I mean looking at someone and talking to them in person wherever possible.’
WHAT NEXT? Try this guided meditation from Pete Cohen, to believe in your big idea and give it the energy it needs.
You can order Pete Cohen’s new book Inspirators now by going here*
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