To Inspire or To Intimidate?
Think of the most exciting job you’ve done, the best initiative you’ve been part of, the most rewarding experience you’ve had. What was the underlying basis of that experience, the focus of the leadership in that situation? Were you excited? Were you focused on moving towards something? Were you inspired?
What about one that you’re less proud of? One that you don’t recall as fondly? What was the underlying emotion, the nature of the leadership? I’ll hazard a guess that it was less than positive, probably negative, even confrontational; perhaps as if everyday was to be combat, as if you were fighting to get away from something.
Our nature is not one where we flourish when we’re trying to stop something from happening. Rather we’re much more excited and motivated when we’re inspired to do something.
Whether it’s to put a computer on every desk, connect the world through technology, or eradicate poverty, the goals, ideas and leaders that inspire take us much further than those that don’t. They push us to be more than ourselves, to find reservoirs of talent and capability that we never knew we had.
But when we’re forced to adhere, when we feel we have no other option, or when we’re intimidated to execute - by the power of the leader, the community, etc. - we become demotivated. And that never lasts, nor is it lasting.
To use a sports analogy, it’s why we never remember the most defensive team to win a trophy, because no one cares about teams that stopped someone else from playing, even if they won things. (I’m looking at you Chelsea, circa-mid-2000s)
But we do remember teams that had attacking flair, that went all out and hustled for glory, playing the game by the spirit, and not simply the letter, of the law. (Which is why we love Arsenal, circa early 2000s, or Brazil, circa 1986, even though they didn’t ultimately win the World Cup.)
Because we’d much rather be inspired than intimidated.
Because inspiration pushes us to be better than who we are, to give more of ourselves than it’s perhaps reasonable to expect.
Because we prefer ‘better together’ than ‘better without’.
The truth is that we can use this as a gauge for where we are at the moment.
Are we in a place where we’re inspired to achieve? If we’re leaders: are we fully harnessing the power of inspiration?
Or are we cogs in the wheel, simply doing what we’re supposed to, and relying on our power of authority, of intimidation to get things done?
Our answer to these questions determines not only what we do, but frankly, who we can become.
(Note: As a rule, I tend not to quote politicians on this blog, as I find they’re generally good at saying one thing and then doing another, but credit where credit’s due, this idea of Inspiration versus intimidation isn’t mine. I heard it in two places - Beto O’Rourke during the recent Texas debate and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis when addressing troops.)