By: Luci Lampe
What makes a leader inspiring? Is it her evident self-assuredeness, notable achievements, or high emotional intelligence? Yes, yes, and yes; but I’d also like to credit something we don’t often take into account. If you have the pleasure of raising a family while building or scaling a business, you will inevitably find the two are not as separate as you maybe once believed.
In studying the lives of some of the most inspiring leaders — Nelson Mandela, Sir Richard Branson, and Oprah — I’ve found a surprising common thread that has little to do with business acumen. What was that common thread? While not all of the aforementioned individuals have kids, they all possess(ed) childlike qualities. Not the annoying ones, like getting fixated on a single episode of Dora and protesting with ear-piercing screeches the moment the screen goes black. I’m referring to the invaluable, life-enriching qualities we grown-ups could use much more of, in business and in life. I’d like to suggest there are three key childlike qualities all truly inspiring leaders possess.
1. Inspiring Leaders Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously
In the world of business and leadership, it’s relatively easy to get caught up in our own hype and take ourselves a bit too seriously. Whether you’ve recently become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or just got your first guest post published on a mommy blog, you’re awesome. We know that, and we celebrate that! Inspiring leaders take their work seriously and pour their heart and soul into it, but they don’t take themselves too seriously.
I absolutely can not think of a better example than Sir Richard Branson. I mean, have you seen the guy? His articles and posts are the perfect embodiment of this point. Here’s a man who clearly knows how to build a massive empire of a business, and has so much freaking fun living, connecting, and serving. That’s his edge, and everyone within his sphere of influence gets to witness and feel the effects of his authenticity and energy. What an inspiration, and fab reminder to keep it real. Personally, the moment I feel myself feeling like I’m the stuff, I take a step back and laugh at my craziness (after I high-five myself for being amazing, of course).
2. Inspiring Leaders Get Curious
When I learned that Nelson Mandela became the first in his family to receive formal education and even earned a law degree while in confinement, I got a glimpse into his curiosity. As the first black president of South Africa with an enormous task ahead of him, Mandela made it top priority to find ways to improve race relations and build a new international image of a united South Africa. In addition to the obvious qualities like resilience, grit, and compassion, what else helped make that possible? Curiosity.
In her book, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Dr. Marilee Adams validates the impact of asking better questions through the concept of Question Thinking. The basic idea is quite simple, yet life-changing. When we take control of our thoughts by asking productive questions (“learner path” questions) instead of reactive ones (“judger path” questions), we can achieve more desirable results. Whether they do it consciously or not, inspiring leaders are in the habit of asking questions that are geared toward solutions, empathy, and openness.
3. Inspiring Leaders Stop and Smell the Flowers
As Tony Robbins often says, if you don’t have fifteen minutes for yourself in the day, you don’t have a life. There’s so much truth in that, not only when it comes to self-care activities like exercise and good nutrition, but also in noticing and appreciating the beauty in every-day life. If you’ve ever taken a walk with a toddler, you know that they notice e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, and they will stop and it check out, regardless of how late you are for that dinner. Obviously, we have more responsibilities than a toddler, and therefore must be more conscious of time. Still, inspiring leaders know the importance of carving out that sacred time to chill, breathe, and appreciate the incredible life they’ve worked so hard to create. They slow down to speed up.
While they may go about it in different ways, inspiring leaders are committed to personal growth and a deeper understanding of self. They recognize that personal growth is what ultimately enables them to show up more powerfully for their families, businesses, and the communities they serve. In Oprah’s words, it’s “seeking the fullest expression of self,” which is constantly evolving.
As leaders, influencers, and community-oriented people, we have the opportunity to bring out the greatness in those around us. Practicing these three childlike qualities with intention can help us become the powerful, inspiring leaders our communities need. As I’m being summoned to watch Dora with my two-year-old, please feel free to share your a-ha moments. What additional childlike qualities do you see in other inspiring leaders?
Luci Lampe is the Author of ACHIEVING SEXY and the Founder of Sexy Mama Movement, empowering every mom to live a life she loves in a body she loves.