How Inspired Leaders Exploit the Digital Power Shift

Leadership | Steve Barnes | Social MediaAs digital technology and social media reshape our lives there is an unprecedented opportunity for business leaders to harness and unleash the forces of attraction and influence, but if you’re a leader adopting these technologies at your company, don’t get infatuated with all of the new tech toys.

The real opportunity lies in successfully navigating your company through the turbulent waters of change.

Never before, have people had access to so much knowledge and it’s the ubiquity of this information that has forever changed how brand preferences are formed.

This new level of information access and customer engagement requires a fundamental change in company culture and that type of transformational change must come from the top.

Employees hunger for meaning and it’s a leader’s job to help them to see it. People want to feel like they are part of something big, a movement, rather than just merely cogs in a lifeless machine. Mahatma Gandhi said it brilliantly “be the change you want to see”.

Are you driven by a cause, a purpose or a belief? Do you consistently communicate to your team why your company exists beyond sales and profits? Can you articulate a vision that excites your employees and gets customers to rally behind your brand? Do you walk the talk with a fire in your belly?

The digital age has unveiled a new climate of leadership and it’s no secret that influence is no longer controlled strictly from the top. Influence is shifting into the hands consumers and online communities. The world has flattened and the power dynamics have begun to change.

As we move into the 21st century, the most successful leaders will create relationships and networks, not hierarchies or silos. These leaders will leverage the networks to create value, build knowledge and ultimately develop advocates both inside and outside the organization.

This is an era of inspiration, inclusion and connection. All of the strategies, guiding principles and actions that we are used to are as critical to success as ever, but the greatest results will come to companies that can inspire both employees and customers to invest in the company’s underlying mission and what achieving that mission means to them as individuals.

Look, I get it, ultimately we have to deliver profit, but profit is a byproduct of serving the customers, which can only be achieved by serving the employees and your employees are starving for a sense of connection to a higher purpose. They need more than meeting this month’s sales and profit figures to get fulfilled and feel inspired.

You don’t need charisma to inspire people. You need an inspiring vision or purpose. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet understand this well. They’re great leaders not because they are charismatic but because they know that everyone has something within them that serves as a personal inspiration for their own level of success and satisfaction.

Great Leaders tap into that source of passion and energy unleashing the full potential of their employees driving extraordinary levels of creativity and innovation. This kind of enthusiasm spreads throughout organizations to create inspired and vibrant company cultures that attract consumers and talent alike.

Add in the right strategic value proposition and… BAM! you create an unstoppable force; one that permeates throughout all consumer touchpoints producing legions of loyal, engaged and profitable customers. It works for one of my companies Dallas Limousine Service and the results have phenomenal.

Simon Sinek author of “Start With Why” shows a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership that starts with the question “Why?” He says “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” He uses examples ranging from Apple to Martin Luther King; Simon demonstrates how the power of inspirational leadership motivates people to take action.

Is your company ready for the Digital Power Shift? What are you doing to prepare?

About Steve Barnes

Marketing and biz dev fanatic. Student of the world and disruptive influence pushing the envelope of growth through innovation.
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18 Responses to How Inspired Leaders Exploit the Digital Power Shift

  1. Jennifer S says:

    Steve, I love this post! As many of us know, the search for pleasure and money doesn’t bring us or our employee’s long-term fulfillment or ensure that we will be engaged and committed. Rather, it is the notion of finding higher meaning or purpose that ensures that we will be engaged in what we do. It’s too easy to get caught up in managing the day to day business.
    Thanks for reminding us what is important.

  2. silvia says:

    Steve. I agree with your post. I understand that it’s important for people find passion in what they do and that the company make them feel part of something that is truly bigger than themselves. I’m not sure where to start. Any tips?

    • Steve Barnes says:

      Hi Silvia, here’s my abbreviated take – Inspirational leaders know where they’re headed and why. They have a compelling life mission driving them forward. Those in leadership roles, who strive to inspire, should be mission oriented, transparent, relational individuals who see quality human interaction as critical to achieving desired outcomes.

      Individual motivation stems from inner needs, drives and goals; the leader’s task in motivating others is to first understand what these are and then tap into these inner needs to supply a channel for their fulfillment. The individual members must still do the rest. Hope this helps.

    • Stu says:

      Being a big nerd, and a propensity for the “I have a Plan” speech rather than the “I have a Dream” speech…
      1. You need a compliment: From an engineering perspective accurately perceiving the challenge is a major part of the struggle and you are there.
      2. It is always nice to have a sense of where to start-
      from the framework of kaizen and taking action and understanding the power of incremental improvement- you can get the brain matter engaged from starting where you are and do what you can.

      From my perspective working in small companies- I see too many really talented people creatively working around technology and operational roadblocks – and too many decision makers too distracted to understand the underlying costs of wasted energy and worn down enthusiasm.

      Listening and the power of neutral observation are critical. We are all a prisoner of our past perceived experiences. Leadership, from my perceived experiences, too often does not listen to employee concerns enough. Yes, you do have to listen past the self-serving at times- to get to the nougat center.

      The way I see it when we can reduce friction by eliminating simple dumb stuff we have more slack to take on more substantial tasks. To many people think that keeping employees busy busy busy is good. Actually, results are good. You just need to know how to measure results.

      For leadership, shedding stuff better delegated, gives more time to listen and learn and plan.

      Reducing the busy work load, engaging the team in the why you are in business – (thanks, Steve, that is a profound strategic point… and thanks for the reference to the great video…) listening, recognizing people when they
      do what you want done… on a regular and continuing basis…
      the daily battle to find and implement simple improvements helps keep the plan simple and workable.

      I don’t know if that helped or not. Your question is the profound challenge in the world… how to better engage and leverage human talent- the ultimate high technology tool.

      • Steve Barnes says:

        Hey Stu, Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation. You mentioned “leveraging human talent”. In the video, Simon say’s (sorry) :) “Everyone knows WHAT they do. Some know HOW they do it. But very few know WHY they do what they do”. As I see it the “why” is useless until you can make it tangible and more than just a top-down pronouncement, it’s got to be part of who you are as a leader. People want to work for and buy from companies they can relate to, believe in and trust. In the digital age there is no place to hide who you are and what your company stands for.

  3. Scott says:

    Thank you for sharing this Steve. Another intriguing post! I think that the “why” that Simon talks about in the video is a good starting point but no matter how you look at it there is no simple formula for inspirational leadership. There is a complex array of forces steering the direction of each person and these forces cannot always be seen or studied. In addition, if the same forces are steering two different people, each one may act differently.

    • Steve Barnes says:

      Good observation Scott, it’s my belief that the “why” gives the leader a strong foundation to work from. Beyond that are the strategies, guiding principles or actions you will take in pursuit of your “why”. Motivation is complex – influenced by perceptions and strengthened by multiple factors. You’re right; individuals are motivated by different things at different times in their lives. Leaders need to understand this complexity and know that what motivates one person will not necessarily motivate another but over time a powerful and consistent purpose will win the day.

  4. Bob S. says:

    Great topic and conversation. I think you make a good point. Leaders need to understand the bigger purpose to make jobs challenging, exciting, and meaningful. Make each employee feel like an individual in a great team, rather than a cog in a lifeless machine. People need meaningful work, even if it is tiring and unpleasant; they need to know that it is important and necessary for the survival of the organization.

    • Steve Barnes says:

      Bob, thanks for the feedback. In my experience, the best leaders find multiple ways to recognize individuals while encouraging them to become self-motivated and challenging them to step up to the plate of personal responsibility. The result is an atmosphere of cooperation, creativity, and innovation that permeates an entire organization.

  5. Sherri says:

    Passion and inspiration are wonderful but they don’t happen in a negative atmosphere. There is a negative environment that occurs in workplaces when people do not know exactly what is expected of them. If we feel that we are not part of the process, not part of the solution, are the victim of the events or have poor leadership we will not be productive. Poor productivity aside, the greatest cost of unhappy employees can be measured in terms of negative impact on co-workers, lost opportunity costs and time and money spent to improve staff morale. I’ve seen it and it can lead to an out of control downward spiral.

    • Steve Barnes says:

      Thanks Sherri, Exactly right, you cannot expect anyone to be a high-performer if they don’t know what is expected of them and what standards they are supposed to reach. Furthermore, if they are deprived of positive reinforcement their efforts will wither and die. These are basic management principals.

      The inspirational leader understands that people need to feel included. Inclusion goes beyond the listening and feedback; for real inclusion, people need to feel intimately connected to the actions and process that are leading to the accomplishment of the goals or the decision. People who are part of the decision making process become the owners of it, thus it gives them a personal interest in seeing the plan succeed.

  6. Sherri says:

    Hi Steve, this is an excellent subject for discussion. Thank you!

  7. Brian says:

    Most corporations have been over managed and under led.

    When management is more interested in looking good than in doing what is necessary, the results can be dreadful. While money is a motivator, so are praise, recognition, rewards, a thank you and noticing an individual’s contribution. To be a good leader; you have to be a good listener, be a role model, be a good coach, be a good motivator, involve employees in decision making, ask for inputs and be a proactive.

  8. Stu says:

    Great blog, Steve. You have a great eye for compelling visuals- plus the bandwidth to be interesting in copy. This was my first visit and won’t be my last.

    But, of course, you have cast a spell of angst on me concerning my own blog… but that is good. I can iterate and improve. Being homely in the digital world is a challenge that can be addressed. :-)

  9. Another super post and supporting video Steve. As the leader of my firm the why we do what we do message is one I felt my staff had received. Although after reading your post and corresponding video I realized I may have let the “WHY” question slip from the forefront. This has obviously had a trickle down effect to my staff and takes away from my personal inspiration. So thanks again for the message to put first things first.

    John H

    • Steve Barnes says:

      Thanks John. You’re not alone. Most leaders at one time or another find themselves in the thick on thin things. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of driving profitability; focused on the “things” that need to happen to get us there. The great leaders are always looking for new ways to inspire the people who ultimately will take their companies into the stratosphere. Keep the passion my friend.

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