On our recent Maine vacation trip, one thing caught my attention as I traversed the scenic roads and hiking paths. Nature can’t be measured. On a scale of one to ten how do you calculate the beauty of a hazy cobbled coastline? Does it make any sense to arbitrarily calculate the value of a crystal-clear lake or an unblemished blueberry bog? The beauty inherent in nature is inspiring through the unexplainable.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Today’s leadership often emphasizes the value of metrics. This approach works well to assess sales revenue or calculate a budget. But what metric would you apply to beauty, joy, respect, or truth?
The natural world seems to understand what it means to be inspiring.
Coastlines around Mount Desert Island, where Bar Harbor is located, are littered with boulders and cobbles. They have been carved over thousands of years by ocean waves. The colors and combinations of many coasts are constantly changing. They contribute their beauty while they can…today.
The same is true for wildflowers, birds, animals, and trees. They show up with one simple message, “I’m here. Enjoy my beauty! Be inspired!” Flowers provide nectar for insects. Insects provide food for birds. Trees provide shelter and shade. They each contribute their inspiring link in the great circle of life.
Workplaces are often dominated by fear or punishment. Motivation is used to measure success. Alignment with company goals is the prize. A motivational focus relies on rewards and punishments. This simply triggers an instinctive fear-based response. While motivation can be useful, like studying all night because the exam deadline is tomorrow, it has many limits.
Inspiration is very different. It is based on love. The focus is primarily on others – helping them achieve their goals. Nature is inspiring because we become immersed in its beauty – the sights, sounds, and smells create a relationship with us. Likewise, we fall in love with those who inspire us and also like working for companies that inspire us.
Many of our leadership models and metaphors are obsolete. Organizational structures, hierarchy, boring meetings, and policies suffocate the creativity and independent thinking of workers. Nature doesn’t discuss how it will present its beauty each day. It just shows up and offers its best self to the world.
I spend much of my time teaching and coaching “leadership.” In reality, I am encouraging behavioral changes that will inspire others. I’m building healthy teams to do inspiring work. I’m creating inspiring organizations that will change the world.
Inspiring leadership won’t happen overnight and may be viewed cynically by some. But I believe when we love and honor others in our work and life, things can change. Take the advice of St. Francis, “Always preach the gospel, and when necessary, use words.” Be inspiring!