50 years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington. Those words have served as an inspiration to generation after generation of people from all kinds of backgrounds all over the world.
Now lets draw some parallels between MLK’s inspirational leadership and yours as a small staff association leader. Before you cut me off and say you have nothing in common, don’t sell yourself short! Even though his words moved a country to a very important and groundbreaking social and legal reform, you definitely have plenty in common. And don’t be intimidated: it’s not like Martin Luther King Jr. was always an iconic civil rights leader. In fact, he wore many hats, much like you. He was deeply involved with his community, church, and of course family before he became an icon.
Even though your work may not be about voting rights or segregation, it’s still important work. And you can still be inspirational! In fact, I bet you are already, but here are some ways to really amp up your inspiration-factor.
1) Be a great listener
There’s no question that really inspirational leaders are wonderful communicators, and so much of communication is listening. It’s almost a fundamental human need to be heard, acknowledged, and validated and in an association environment it may be even more important because it’s expected as part of the membership landscape. When you get a member or fellow leader in a conversation, listen more than you speak. You’ll be surprised at the positive reaction you’ll receive.
2) Lead by example
If you can’t walk the talk, how can you expect your members to be active and engaged? Attend events with enthusiasm. If you can’t muster up the enthusiasm, that’s a great indicator that your events need to be reevaluated!
3) Share your motivation
What keeps you going? Share the stories of the lives changed your association, the people helped, or any other tidbits that keep you plowing through the endless juggling act of running your group. Is it setting an example for your kids or community? Is it a desperate need for more pay or benefits? Share those motivations with your members, and encourage them to share theirs as well!
4) Think big
There’s a lot of minutiae in association leadership, but keep the big picture on your radar and mention it from time to time. Remember that when people fantasize about winning the lottery, they’d be thrilled with a $200 scratcher but the $400 million jackpot really gets them going. Keep your members updated and motivated with little successes too, but a glimpse at the big picture can be very inspirational.
5) Ask questions
Find out what inspires your members. What do they want to see from the association? What do they want to hear? If you’re connected on social media, pay attention to what resonates with them. The best way to be inspirational is to know your audience.
Everyone has been inspired and has the capability to inspire others. Today’s your day! Go for it!