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good leaders inspire

John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, once defined leadership in these terms: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

That’s a great definition.  You’ve probably heard that leadership is influence (thanks to John Maxwell).  That’s true.  If you’re not influencing someone, you’re not leading them.  Take Maxwell’s definition and through it in the blender with President Adam’s definition — and you have a really good definition of leadership.

Ask yourself the following questions …

  • Do the people I lead dream bigger dreams than before?
  • Do the people I lead show a desire to learn more than before?
  • Do the people I lead do more on their own initiative, without my prompting?
  • Do the people I lead become better leaders?

Here’s why many leaders will struggle with these questions: for them, leadership isn’t about those they lead — it’s about themselves.  Production-oriented leaders may still have influence (and by definition still be a leader), but they may be failing to harness the power of inspiration.

The power of inspiration enables a team to go further than a production-mindset allows.  Teams that are dreaming more, learning more, doing more, and becoming more will accomplish more.

Adams’ definition of leadership applies across many landscapes.  Parenting, coaching, pastoring, managing, mentoring.

If you applied the four questions above to your key relationships, how would they change?