Reject the Limitation

A true leader is one who is committed to leading with his or her heart and appealing to the human spirit.

There is an unwritten script for managers who are in charge of leading people toward a goal. That script, which has been developed over many years by many generations of managers, includes the typical bullet points such as:

  • Communicate clear goals
  • Ensure team members understand their roles
  • Foster a positive culture

While these three actions are important to leading people toward achievement, there is so much more required if you are committed to being exceptional. While digital delivery systems and artificial intelligence may be the latest trends in tech, it is people who will deliver us to the next century. It is people who will inspire us. It is through our human spirit that our soul is able to paint our own life’s masterpiece. As leaders, it is the human spirit that we must tune into and appeal to. The key to effective employee engagement is tapping into their human spirit and providing an environment where they can be fulfilled.

It’s Time to Go Deep

While providing goal and role clarity is important and will help lead team players in their jobs, those boardroom bullet points don’t address the “heart” of the matter. We as humans are born to contribute by creating. Creating art, creating ideas, creating connections. This ability to be creative lies at the heart of what YOUR team members need to feel engaged. It is the opportunity to feel connected to the mission and create solutions or innovations. Ultimately, we all want to feel like we are being true to ourselves while fulfilling our potential. It is the leader’s job to create these opportunities while communicating the mission and vision of the organization.

Not Time for Robots

What happens so often in the workplace is that we become mechanical as we are focused on a goal, a routine, a comfort zone. It is this day-in and day-out grind that dulls our ambition and desire to improve the lives of those we work with. Renewing that commitment and providing a “wake-up” or interruption to the norm can be an effective way to revisit commitments, recalibrate efforts toward a goal, and provide individuals the opportunity to step back, take inventory of their successes and failures, become clear on their goals and their roles and create energy for the work ahead.


So how do we as leaders inspire our team? How can we set the conditions for our team to bring their best self? Understanding that every leader has a style all his or her own (which is an important process on its own), I would suggest finding your own way to adopt some of the following techniques:

  1. Lead by example: Show that you can be vulnerable, allow your team a glimpse into your personal/family life, show them you can relax and are not always the robot you appear to be during those staff meetings.
  2. Lead with compassion: Allow a hardworking team member an extra day off to take care of a personal matter, send a handwritten thank you note to a team member for an extra special effort, regularly ask your team members how their family is doing.
  3. Lead with gratitude: Show your appreciation to team members who represent the company well, recognize team members who deserve a pat on the back (and make a big deal of it!), organize a special event that will bring your team together to celebrate their hard work and accomplishments.

So while “going deep” may seem fairly simple and intuitive, the mark of a true leader is one who is committed to leading with his or her heart and appealing to the human spirit. You will find that by providing those human encounters, your team will become inspired to bring their best self to achieve extraordinary results.

Joe DeRing is the founder and CEO of EMPOWER Leadership Adventure Center. In 2000, DeRing graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and was commissioned into the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer with the rank of second lieutenant. As a lieutenant, DeRing led light and motorized platoons of up to 60 men in combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Now a former Army Captain and Army Ranger, DeRing is regularly invited to speak to high school and college students regarding his leadership experiences.


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