Making Lightning

What do we need to do to inspire others to action?  There are means of doing that through rewards and recognition, but ultimately, transactional leadership goes only so far.  We can set a positive example and drive our culture through our own actions, but that requires those we wish to inspire to pay attention.  Every expert on leadership will tell you it is a transitional thing, something that must essentially start with the reward and punishment model to demonstrate what it is we value (and conversely, what we don’t), and only when individuals begin to naturally share those values and find self-actualization through those values, then and only then will transformational leadership begin.

Put your own personal politics (or musical preferences, whichever happens to be more important to you) aside for a moment; I was listening to one of my favorite musicians, Tom Morello, today.  If you know anything about him, he is the guitarist for the rock band Rage Against The Machine, and probably not something you envision a 50 year-old fire chief listening to (if I haven’t surprised you by now, you probably haven’t been reading very long).  My point though is that the message he is sharing on the album I was listening to is largely a message also shared by another famous musician, Bob Dylan.  And this may come as sacrilege to some of my readers, I actually don’t care much for Dylan’s music.  I respect it, I understand it, but it just isn’t something that reaches me like, say, Rage Against The Machine.  Maybe you are beginning to see my point here.

Transformational leadership is very much about timing and context. What might seem important to you may not seem important to others, regardless of how impassioned you are about those particular values.  As an emergency service leader, I may value customer service or safety or scientific analysis of our job as much as anyone else, but if I can’t frame it in a way to inspire others to act on it, I might as well be blowing in the wind.

Find ways to reach the people you need to inspire.  When you do, you will find that excellence will meet you there.

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