Skip to content
Back to Blog

3 Ways Leaders Inspire in Turbulent Times

Rich Johnson
Rich Johnson

Posted Oct 05, 2021

The exhausting pandemic and now the Great Resignation have a lot of leaders on edge as talented people leave their organizations for various reasons: better pay and flexibility, new skill development and increased responsibilities, or more purposeful work. Leaders can and should be proactively addressing these issues: ensuring competitive comp and benefits, workplace flexibility, opportunities to grow and advance, and providing each employee a line of sight from their individual work to the collective impact of the business. But these are check-the-box solutions every company should all be doing. What else can be done to differentiate and gain a competitive edge in this season?

Now more than ever, leaders need to inspire. In the face of Covid complexity, social and environmental injustice, and economic uncertainty, leaders need to keep motivating and demonstrating their commitment to the people they lead. What does this look like? Research shows that inspirational leaders are fully present, acknowledging both the realities at hand and engaging their greatest strengths to meet the moment. 

In the face of Covid complexity, social and environmental injustice, and economic uncertainty, leaders need to keep motivating and demonstrating their commitment to the people they lead.

Great leaders exhibit at least one of three important qualities that set them apart. Figuring out which quality comes most naturally to you and then leaning into it, can make the difference between average vs. inspiring leadership that just might encourage your people to stay.

1. Vision Casting

Leaders with vision have the ability to paint a picture of what our future together looks like. These leaders are typically good with words and oratory. They understand how to tap into our emotions, our desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves, to make a difference and have an impact. When these leaders cast their vision, we are inspired by the fact that we have a role to play in bringing this vision to life and it inspires us to follow and to give our very best. 

Leaders with vision casting ability are able to paint a picture of what our future together looks like.

Leaders with vision don’t necessarily have the technical expertise or the strategic plan to bring their vision to life. But through their vision casting, these leaders recruit and motivate those those with technical knowledge, and people who can build the plan for how to get from current to future state.

2. Technical Expertise

Leaders with expertise have mastered a craft, a subject or a discipline so successfully that they’ve gained a following. They have technical skills that are far beyond the average abilities and have garnered recognition and a position of influence due to their unique knowledge and experience. These leaders know their field better than most; they have both a broad understanding of their subject and they can get into the weeds, speaking to the nuanced details of the latest developments and trends. We put our trust in these leaders because they create technological advancement, they have a track record for efficiency, and they answer questions and respond to concerns with data driven accuracy.

Leaders with technical expertise have both a broad understanding of their subject and they can get into the weeds, speaking to the nuanced details of the latest developments and trends.

Leaders with technical expertise may not have the ability to cast a compelling vision, but they know their craft so well that they inspire confidence and we follow. They may or may not be highly relational, but people don’t often look to these types of leaders for deep friendship or emotional support. These leaders offer a kind of genius that compels us to follow regardless of communication style or deep connection.

3. Relational Connection

Those who lead by establishing a relational connection inspire by taking the time to genuinely care for others. They get to know us and support us, not because of what we can do for them but because it’s simply in their nature to act in the best interest of those around them. These leaders are often quite self-actualized, and the overflow from their centeredness is what draws us in. When we are valued and experience belonging, the loyalty factor can go through the roof - there’s very little we won’t do for a leader who truly wants the best for us and actively seeks to help us realize our potential.

When we are valued and experience belonging...there's very little we won't do for a leader.

Sometimes leaders who excel in relational connection can also cast vision or inspire through technical expertise, but those attributes don’t need to be front and center when a leader harnesses the power of relational connection. 

It’s rare to find a leader who excels in all three of these attributes. Chances are, one of these stands out as a more natural expression of your leadership than the other two, but we can grow and improve in the other areas. Through self-reflection, feedback and intentional skill building leaders can increase their ability to inspire, but start by simply offering more of what you already do best.

Share your vision to shine a light on where we are headed.

Provide your technical expertise to help us get there.

Connect deeply with those on your path and together, we will inspire one another to a stronger tomorrow. 

Rich Johnson

Rich Johnson is a leadership coach and consultant with nearly two decades of experience starting, leading and advising organizations. Rich works at the intersection of people /culture and strategy /operations to create thriving places to work. As a Principal at sr4 Partners, he works with clients ranging from high growth startups to F100 companies, training their leaders, consulting on strategy, and designing programs that facilitate inclusive and thriving cultures. Rich’s work with diversity, equity and inclusion began in 2003 as a member of his company’s diversity council, and today includes leading executive-level consulting engagements for clients as they navigate these critical and uncharted waters. Rich founded Spark Ventures in 2007, a nonprofit funding jobs, education and healthcare in marginalized communities in Africa, Latin America and the U.S. In 2017, he cofounded Ignite, a leadership development company that was acquired by sr4 Partners in 2020. He speaks, writes and in his free time loves to read, run and hang with his two dogs.

Elements Image

Subscribe to our newsletter

Be the first to hear about industry news and events.

Latest Articles

3 Ways Leaders Inspire in Turbulent Times

3 Ways Leaders Inspire in Turbulent Times

The exhausting pandemic and now the Great Resignation have a lot of leaders on edge as talented people leave their organizations for variou...

Announcing Ignite’s New Leadership Curriculum and Website

Announcing Ignite’s New Leadership Curriculum and Website

Ignite is a diverse and dynamic leadership community from sr4 Partners. We develop early to mid-level leaders through weekly, live, virtual...

3 Ideas for Improving Your Presentation Skills

3 Ideas for Improving Your Presentation Skills

In today's workplace, whether virtual or in-person, we are presenting ourselves and our work on a regular basis, and how we show up and wha...