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Why You Should Aspire to Achieve Aspirational Leadership

What IS aspirational leadership? How is it different than other forms of leadership?

Some leaders actively and determinedly seek out their leadership role in their professional or personal life. For others, their leadership role is cast upon them. Either way, once you take on the position of leadership, in whatever circumstance, you need to choose carefully how you frame, or view, what leadership means to you.

You could, for example, choose to view and treat leadership as a position or role. Alternatively, you could step up and into your own value, accept and embrace the reality that your leadership role is a privilege and not just a position. Science highly recommends you choose the latter.

A range of research studies from the field of positive psychology, including those from Associate Professor Michael Steger at Colorado State University and his colleagues, indicate that leaders (and their teams) who find meaning and purpose in their role are more likely to flourish in life, and to be in a better position to positively influence the lives of others.

This is the fundamental mindset of an aspirational leader. They see their leadership as a privilege and not just a position, and they develop a sense of meaning and purpose in being a leader.

An aspirational leader is someone who intentionally focuses on positively influencing the capacity of their people to flourish in their professional and personal lives and to strive to perform at their best.

Regardless of your leadership role, you’re accountable for creating an environment where people can flourish, so they operate at their best possible level with a sense of meaning and pride in achieving their goals.

3 Core Principles Of Aspirational Leadership

While there are many elements that will impact the success of any leader, including competence, personality, and mindset, there are three core principles on which aspirational leaders base their thoughts, decisions and actions.

  1. An aspirational leader realizes that relationships matter. They understand that their personal success and the success of the people for whom they are responsible, are determined by the value created and exchanged through the relationships they have earned, built and maintain. Aspirational leaders realize the powerfully positive impact relationships have on their own lives and on the lives of the people they lead.

The importance of relationships in our lives is not just a feel-good idea. Positive psychology research firmly places relationships as one of the most important elements of a flourishing life. For example, Martin Seligman’s research suggests that positive relationships are one of five core elements to a flourishing life (positivity, engagement, meaning and achievement are the other four). This is the foundation of aspirational leadership.

Positive relationships are also one of the most highly associated elements that help people build a sense of meaning in their lives Mike Steger points out that ‘Across many studies, most people indicated that relationships with others are the most important source of meaning in their lives.’

  1. An aspirational leader values and models integrity. They understand modeling the character and behavior they expect of others will directly impact their capacity to positively influence and inspire others to achieve their goals. This is the substance of aspirational leadership.

In Dr. Henry Cloud’s highly recommended book ‘Integrity, his research highlights one of the key dimensions that demonstrate integrity as intentional results. This focus on results through the demonstration of thoughts and actions based on integrity and good character is the substance of aspirational leadership.

  1. An aspirational leader earns, builds and maintains trust. They realize all positive and meaningful relationships may not always be easy to earn, build and maintain, but at the very centre of all positive relationships, is trust.

Trust’s Impact on the Entire Organization.

While aspirational leaders place high value on the importance of trust in earning, building and maintaining relationships, they also have a pragmatic understanding that research clearly demonstrates that trust impacts almost every measure of organizational success. For example, in a world of disruption, distraction and change, an organization’s capacity to be creatively competitive and innovative is critical. Researchers Yunhyung Chung and Susan E. Jackson found that team members who are highly trusted by co-workers are more likely to create new knowledge.

Aspirational leaders understand trust consists of self-trust, trust in others and earning the trust of others, and firmly place trust as the central focus of being an aspirational leader.

Aspirational leadership is a choice, and while there are many contributing factors to success in any leadership role, an aspirational leader is someone who genuinely views leadership as a privilege and not just a role. They value relationships, model good character and integrity, and firmly place trust at the centre of their decision-making and actions.

It is through the adoption and application of these three core principles that aspirational leaders can positively influence their teams to flourish and prosper. And in so doing, they create a thriving workplace.

David Penglase is one of Australia’s leading corporate educators, specialising on the impact of intentional trust on all aspects of our business and personal success. David is one of Australia’s most sought after professional conference speakers, delivering engaging, entertaining and inspiring keynotes and masterclasses to large conference audiences locally and internationally across a wide range of industries, and has been inducted into the Australian professional speakers’ Hall of Fame. He is a prolific researcher and writer, and his latest book, Intentionomics practically outlines the science behind the impact of our intentions on living happy, flourishing and prosperous lives. David has degrees in business and human resource development. He has an MBA and a Master degree in Professional Ethics. He is currently completing a Master Degree in Applied Positive Psychology.

  • Very good article – thank you. I like to ask leaders about the inspirations that bring about the aspirations. It reinforces the meaningful work piece.

  • Thanks Janet, yes that’s a great approach. I was asked why I use the term aspirational leader instead of inspirational leader. History is lined with inspirational leaders who very few today would ever aspire to emulate. We need leaders to be both inspirational and aspirational. In other words, we want leaders who are leading in ways that model the thoughts, words and actions that others will aspire to as well. While not everyone will aspire to be a leader of others, ideally, an
    aspirational leader will inspire self-leadership, again through the demonstration of thought, words and actions. What I am referring to here of course is our ‘character’. Thanks again for making the time to reply Janet. Warmly, David

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