Leaders, let’s inspire

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Greg Morris
Greg Morris

By Greg Morris

Rarely do we hear someone speak who has the potential to change our life, and as a result, the lives of others. I had such an experience recently, and I want to share it with you.

My “awakening” occurred on a four-day trip to Portland, Ore., as I traveled with a delegation of about 90 central Indiana community leaders.

The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce orchestrates the Leadership Exchange trip to explore how other cities face challenges similar to our own.

The mission is to draw parallels and to determine if there is anything we can learn and bring home to improve the quality of life in our community.

Beyond the exhilaration of being with such an accomplished group of people who genuinely care about the wellbeing of citizens of our community, I was privileged to hear a truly inspirational speaker in our first session. His name is Lance Secretan. 

Secretan is the former chief executive officer of a Fortune 100 company, a university professor, an award-winning columnist and author of 15 books about leadership.

Thirty of Fortune’s “America’s Most Admired Companies” and 12 of Fortune’s “100 Best companies to Work for in America” are his clients. After hearing him speak for two hours, I can understand why.

I guess Secretan had the right message at the right time for me personally.

Leadership has been weighing on my mind of late. There’s no doubt that the newspaper business is facing monumental challenges.

I talk to many folks in the industry who are just plain negative most of the time. I understand why. Business is tough, and the future can look murky.

The bright spot has been with smaller community papers where these trends are not as evident (yet).

Look, I know it’s hard.

But if we don’t demonstrate exceptional and inspirational leadership within our own companies what chance do we have?

Our staffs look to us for how to react. If you feel beat down and you’re not setting a positive tone in your company, how do you expect your staff members to perform at the highest level needed to succeed?

Many of us have been in this business for a long time.

Many of our staff members have been doing their jobs for a long time.

How do you motivate yourself and your staff after long tenures? What new things could you say to catch somebody’s attention?

This is where Secretan caught my attention in Portland.

He was teaching from his latest book, “The Spark, the Flame and the Torch.”

I suggest you buy it today and read it. Secretan teaches you how to inspire yourself and then how to inspire others, who then inspire the world. Thus – the spark, the flame and then the torch.

We do things because we are inspired to do them. We should teach inspiration, not leadership.

How many leadership books have you read? Have any of them changed your life? Secretan tells us we need to provide motivation and inspiration to our staffs.

It’s important to know the difference.

Motivation manipulates people to do what we want them to do. It’s about “me.”

Inspiration is totally different. It’s about them.

The definition of inspiration is to arouse by divine influence. It comes from within.

Your staff will only perform at the highest possible level if they are inspired to do so. They must choose this path for themselves.

We must first be inspired before we can inspire others.

I can’t possibly hit all the highlights of a two-hour speech and the contents of a book in this short space. I recommend you read the book and find your own path to inspiration.

I can tell you when I returned from Portland, I addressed the need for inspirational leadership at our company in my next management meeting.

I collected everyone’s smartphone at the start of the meeting and said I needed everybody’s full attention.

I started by apologizing to the staff for what I saw as a failure on my part to be an inspirational leader of late. Then I gave a 30 minute impassioned talk about how we all need to transform ourselves into inspirational leaders if our company wants to excel in the new world order.

So has my life changed, and have I changed the lives of others?

It’s too early to judge.

However, it starts with a spark, and I’m dedicated to growing that into a flame.

Go and do likewise. I wish you good health, success and prosperity.

Greg Morris, HSPA board of directors president, is president of IBJ Media and publisher of Indianapolis Business Journal. His column appears in the first issue of each month.