I hear motivational and inspirational used interchangeably as leadership modifiers and they are as different as carrots and peas. Here’s a peak behind the curtain…since the age of 4, I haven’t liked the consistency of peas. I willingly eat carrots, but if you want me to eat peas, you need to inspire the hell out of me.
A motivational leader gets a person to use their conscious brain to take action because it’s in their best interest. The thought is something like, “yes I am motivated to buy another sandwich from that shop because I’m only two stamps from a free sub,” or “I will work to achieve the quarterly sales goals so I can go to Aruba.” With motivation there has to be a carrot; a conscious reason for the person to act. Anyone with a carrot can motivate. But what if there’s no carrots or they don’t like carrots?
An inspiring leader gets another person to use their unconscious brain to spontaneously act without thinking. The person has no conscious idea why the leader made them act that way…they just did it. Like really belly laughing at a funny part in a movie…the director ‘inspired’ you to laugh…you didn’t think, “oh I should laugh deeply here,” and then laugh. You just laughed. Or soldiers who follow their Army platoon sergeant who charged into gunfire. The soldiers don’t consciously think, “I’m going to follow Sarge into this gunfire”, they just do it. If you can find your way into that space…well you can write your own ticket.
There’s plenty of room for leaders to be both inspirational and motivational as the situation dictates. My experience is that for humans (I can't speak for flamingos), the possibility of becoming an inspirational leader can only happen when the person (re)learns to at least minimally speak the language of body and emotions because they’re the language of the unconscious. Did you see how I slipped that (re) in there? You spoke these fluently as a baby so they’re still in there, just have to find where. It’s a lot easier to find slippers you misplaced in the house than to go out and buy them in the first place. To regain fluency, ya gotta get in there and practice speaking it (with an Embodiment or Somatic coach…sometimes those regional dialects are tough!). Otherwise, the leader will come off as inauthentic and a person who has only read about the body, emotions, and unconscious. Like the difference between teaching how to skillfully play basketball because you’ve done it, versus having only read about it in a book.
I was in the military and super analytical until I learned to work with my body, emotions and unconscious about 15 years ago. I got the comment of inauthentic on more than one occasion because I was constantly in my head trying to guess and then perform the correct emotion based on the situation. As if I was wearing a mask over my whole head. Now I go around maskless….well, except when I’m in the grocery store in an N-95. Hey-o! Being analytical is not bad or wrong and I found it required a lot of work to maintain and wear that mask. Learning to work with emotions and the body and stop wearing the mask as much just makes life easier.
If you want to improve your access to these domains, then read my blog every week. :) Additional suggestions are to take an improv class, read Leadership Embodiment by Wendy Palmer and the Leadership Dojo by Richard Strozzi-Heckler.
p.s. turns out the chef who grilled mashed peas inspired the hell out of me and they were delicious.