The term ‘aspirational leadership’ is thrown around in white collar boardrooms across every industry, and has become something of a buzzword in departments seeking L&D interventions – but, more often than not, when we are asked to ‘develop aspirational leadership’ for a client’s top tier and we push back with ‘what does aspirational mean to you?’ the answers aren’t clear.
If you aren’t sure what aspirational leadership looks like, it’s going to be very difficult to set clear and measurable goals, and harder still to achieve – so let’s dig a little deeper into what aspirational means to you.
Behavioural psychologist and scientist David Penglase defines aspirational leadership as:
“An aspirational leader is someone who intentionally focuses on positively influencing the capacity of their people to flourish in their professional and personal life and to strive to perform at their best.”
This shows that aspirational leadership is far more than delegation in the office or setting bold targets for the team. It’s far more in-depth and holistic and looks to improve every individual on an expansive scale. Not just upskilling in the areas required for their role but creating a future and pathway for them which continues to support this advancement, this growth, and which improves their wellbeing and lifestyle outside of their working life.
Aspirational leadership means delivering on, and embodying, the values and ethos of your brand. This doesn’t mean listing some trendy phrases like ‘inspire and achieve’ then giving no more than lip service to them; it means truly identifying what matters to your people and enabling them to live by those beliefs. Accountability at all levels, ownership of new ideas (and of any mistakes which impact the team) and motivating people from their level. Leadership is less about issuing orders and maintaining a hierarchy, and more about walking the walk from within the team, and understanding what issues and pressure points are impacting the progress of your goals so that you can re-route the actions you need to take to achieve them.
Many people use ‘Inspirational Leadership’ and ‘Aspirational Leadership’ interchangeably – but they are fundamentally different; inspirational leadership is always striving to be the most innovative and creative, stepping out from the herd and forging a new path, and pushing boundaries with actions and behaviours which the workforce can witness and feel inspired by.
Aspirational leadership differs in that it doesn’t position anyone at the head, it allows for that creativity and innovation for everyone, and the leaders are a vital part of a team, who work together and combine their strengths to work towards a shared aspiration – a company-wide goal.
This way of leading means framing your interactions and actions in a positive light; it means avoiding the drama and discontent that some organisations are riddled with, and offering positive actions which your team can take. Every business leader has found themselves being dragged into “He said/She said” rows and people passing the buck, throwing mud or blaming others for a lack of impact or progress. It’s all too easy to get tangled up in those discussions and scenarios, and for the focus of the team to always fall on what went wrong and who’s to blame – but that doesn’t actually get you any closer to success. Instead, flip the situation around; who was to blame is less important than how we avoid a repeat of the situation, so look for the fix – and action what needs to be done to achieve it.
Many organisations benefit from a combination of both inspirational and aspirational leadership – and the most vital factor to ensure success as a business leader is an understanding of who you are, who your team are, and what matters to you as a whole. Setting goals and values for your organisation shouldn’t rely on buzzwords and trendy phrases, it should depend entirely on the values you already hold, the morals by which you make your choices and plans, and be cohesive, embracing the innate skills and traits of the team you’ve built. Development through mentoring individuals, coaching the decision makers, and allowing input from every area of the business means that the impact of choices is better understood, and better applied. Listen more than you speak, and allow space for your team to be creative and think outside of their usual limits – and encourage personal growth as a tool for cultural growth within your organisation.
Success doesn’t come from pushing people towards goals or setting magnificent and bold targets for growth. It comes from creating a successfully communicative team who all want the same things, and who can fill each other’s gaps, celebrate each other’s successes, and embrace one another’s ideas and abilities. This is where our programmes can help you; when you are struggling to cement a team, to embed an ethos, or to take actions which bring you closer to those aspirations, you need to refocus and refine what matters, and bring the people in your workforce on board. Buy in from every factor of the business is key to success.
Cohesive and autonomous teams who are all pulling in the same direction are in your hands – and we can guide you through that process. Just ASK. Call 01234 757575 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or download our programme brochure by filling in the form below for information on how we can help you today.