Aspire to Inspire

We always appreciate hearing from our “Leaders Leading Leaders” readers, whether it’s further ideas on or reactions to a topic we’ve written about, suggestions for new topic, or even just a note saying “I enjoyed reading the latest issue.”

However, a few weeks ago we received an uncommonly long e-mail from one of our clients, addressing the challenging topic of “leading by example.” We thought his ideas were excellent, and half-jokingly asked if he would be willing to write his thoughts up as a newsletter.

To our delight, he agreed! Following, then, is the first edition of L3 ever written by a client. Andrew Martinez, an up-and-coming executive at a top defense and intelligence company, writes about his concept of “Aspire to Inspire.” We think you will enjoy it, and might even be inspired…

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How do you see yourself each day? Now turn that around: how do you think people view you? Are you a champion, or are you a downer? What are you doing today that your colleagues will recall ten years from now? What professional legacy do you want to leave behind? How will your children remember you?

Most of us never reach the potential within us. The few of us who do are those blessed DaVincis who approach every day as a gift, and get the most out of our average 25,000 sunrises and sunsets.

For me, the key to success can be captured in a simple phrase: “Aspire to Inspire.” I came up with this mantra years ago, as a rugby coach, and I have found it serves well in every aspect of life.

I created the phrase when I began to realize that many of my players were learning more than I could teach, and were moving further in their rugby careers than I ever would. The feeling was similar to my first experiences as a parent, watching my children fall down, get up again, and grow in the process. As a coach I came to realize that what I do in one moment can affect a lifetime. And subsequent hand-written notes, emails, and conversations with both players and parents showed me how much I meant to these people beyond the rugby pitch.

Most of us interact with many people every day, and those moments can have profound effects on how we shape others as well as what we ourselves become. What we say and do can create either inspiration or self-doubt. As leaders we should always aim for inspiration.

Inspiration starts with open and honest communication: a willingness to listen and to be transparent. Communication is the means by which we set expectations, establish benchmarks, and monitor and measure success. By “Aspiring to Inspire,” you foster mutual understanding and, more important, you "level-up": you raise others with you at the same time that you take your own game to the next level.

As leaders, we have to “coach up, not coach down” (another one of my favorite sayings). We can’t belittle others if we want them to raise their game and become actors in creating a culture of winning and success, where your people help crystallize the vision and take an active part in achieving it. Success breeds success, and once you have established the ground rules for communication and inspiration, you can allow people to take on greater responsibility and accountability. Or, as Henry David Thoreau said, to "go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

The best way to “Aspire to Inspire” is to lead by example. If you can’t model the way and communicate the vision and values by your words and actions, you can’t expect others to understand what is expected of them. In this way, “Aspiring to Inspire” is a lifestyle, and a difficult one. It means being a constant positive force, doing what you say is most important, and not being afraid to show moments of weakness as well as strength. It means bringing your whole self to your role as a leader, and showing the world who you really are: a human being with much to give and someone who is willing to give it freely. How many of us do this once in a day? A week? A month?

“Aspire to Inspire.” It’s mantra we should all aim for, because the rewards are limitless even if we don’t always see the results directly. “Aspiring to Inspire” is one of the most challenging ideals I can imagine but it’s also, without a doubt, one that helps create a life well lived. When all is said and done, can you imagine what good you will have accomplished or what difference you will have made in the world, even if it was just on one other life?

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Andrew has challenged and inspired us here at Nevins Consulting with his idea of “Aspiring to Inspire.” So many executives come up short in terms of how they chart the course, model the way, and inspire and enable their followers. What standards are you holding yourself and your team to? Let us know your thoughts.


"Whatever you are, be a good one." —Abraham Lincoln