Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

How Do You Inspire Others Through Your Leadership?

Most leaders look for role models to inspire how they lead. But it's also important for leaders to consider how to inspire those they lead.

As a people person, I always enjoy visiting new places and new cities as it provides the opportunity to meet new people and spark new conversations, some of which can lead to some very thought-provoking discussions.

For example, a few weeks ago, I meet with a group of leaders to exchange ideas on the growing challenges found in today’s increasingly uncertain global business environment. During this event, I had a one-on-one conversation with one of those leaders, a discussion which began with that typical starting point of sharing our respective stories of what lead us to the work we do today.

When I shared insights based on some of my recent writings on leadership, this leader asked me an intriguing question – ‘how do I go about inspiring others?’

Now many of us have examples of successful leaders who we look up to for inspiration and insight into how we can succeed in the endeavour of leading others. I’ve often been asked which leaders I gain inspiration from and while there are many examples, the ones I often cite are Nelson Mandela and Walt Disney.

But the interesting thing about this particular question is that it shifts our focus inwards onto ourselves in order to examine what we’re creating through our own leadership. That we move beyond simply evaluating our leadership in terms of various established metrics like goal achievement, productivity, and efficiency ratings, in order to ask ourselves what seeds are we planting in the hearts and minds of those we lead?

In other words, the question becomes less about who inspires us and shifts towards answering how are we inspiring those around us through our own actions and words?

As my conversation with this leader continued, it became clear that this was the concern he was having. Although he had facts and figures that proved he was helping his team to reach various assigned targets, he didn’t know if he was inspiring his employees the way his leadership heroes had inspired him. And what’s more, he admitted that he honestly didn’t know where to begin.

Granted, this query can seem to be a bit conceited. After all, if we think about those leadership figures we all admire and look up to, there’s a clear and undeniable reason why they’ve earned our respect and admiration.

And yet, there’s one question that revolves around every individual we look to as a source of inspiration and guidance for today’s leaders – do we see them as inspiring leaders because they achieved extraordinary things, or is it because they Click here to continue reading »”How Do You Inspire Others Through Your Leadership?”

What Storytelling Reveals As The Role Leaders Should Play

A revealing look at three stories that help to illustrate how the function of leaders is to serve as mentors for the real heroes of their organization – their employees.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about 3 fundamental storytelling elements leaders should employ to successfully drive change.

Now when it comes to using storytelling to help describe our vision or change initiative, the common tendency is to frame our story within the hero on a quest narrative, given how it’s the decisions and choices we make through our leadership that ultimately impact whether we collectively succeed or fail.

And yet, the truth is that while we may be the source of the vision or change initiative that guides our collective efforts, the actual role we play as leaders in our organization’s story is not that of the hero, but that of the mentor.

To understand why the role of mentor is the proper fit for leaders in terms of the journey your organization needs to take, let’s start off by looking at the three characteristics that define what a mentor does:

1. Mentors act as our teacher and guide
The most common role mentors play is that of a teacher and guide; that they use their own experiences and insights to help others learn about themselves and find the path they are meant to take to achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

2. Mentors serve as both our cheerleader and our challenger
Mentors will often cheer us on – inspiring us to keep pushing ahead, and eager to celebrate our successes. But mentors also challenge us to question our assumptions of what we’re capable of and what we can achieve.

3. The mentoring relationship has a fixed end point
There’s a clear end point in the relationship between the mentor and the mentee. Specifically, that once the mentor has provided their mentee with all the help and guidance they can provide, it’s time for the mentee to use their acquired knowledge and insights to continue their journey on their own.

Taken together, these three characteristics illustrate what Christopher Vogler wrote in his book, “The Writer’s Journey”:

“Mentors provide heroes with motivation, inspiration, guidance, training, and gifts for the journey. Every hero is guided by something, and a story without some acknowledgement of this energy is incomplete.”

Interestingly, Vogler’s description of the role mentors play in storytelling mirrors the function of effective leadership. Namely, that it’s a leader’s responsibility to craft a vision that inspires people to commit their best efforts, as well as providing our employees with the support and guidance to help make that vision a reality.

Of course, when it comes to storytelling, it’s easy for us to imagine ourselves being the heroes of our organization’s story thanks to our leadership role. And yet, the simple truth is that as leaders, we serve as the mentor to the real heroes of our organization’s story – our employees [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

With that in mind, I’d like to share stories from three different movies that help shine a light on how we can serve as mentors through our leadership to bring out the best in those we lead: Click here to continue reading »”What Storytelling Reveals As The Role Leaders Should Play”

A Year-End Note Of Inspiration To Keep Pushing Ahead

An end-of-year note to inspire leaders to challenge their outlook for how they will empower the best in those they lead.

With the end of one year and the beginning of a new one now upon us, the typical response for many of us is to reflect on what’s transpired over these past 12 months, while at the same time looking ahead in anticipation of what’s to come in the new year.

In the case of 2016, there seems to be a common consensus that this was a particularly bad year which many are glad to see come to an end. For some, this sentiment is borne from the loss of certain musicians, actors, and artists over the past 12 months, while for others, this feeling stems from the results of various political elections and referendums held around the world.

Of course, what is interesting about these negative impressions regarding this year is that the outcomes that many use to define 2016 as being a particularly ‘bad year’ have yet to be felt. It’s only in the months ahead that we’ll appreciate how there won’t be any new performances or new creative works from the musicians, actors and other creative types who passed away in 2016.

And while the voting process for Brexit and the US presidential election was held this year, the real consequences and impact of those choices won’t be truly felt or understood until well into 2017 and beyond. In other words, the ending of 2016 marks only the beginning for the UK and the US – along with the rest of the world – as to what their choices will give rise to in terms of what the future will hold for their respective countries.

And yet, this hasn’t stopped many from looking at these events in isolation; as a reflection of what this year represents, as opposed to what they might give rise to in the months and years ahead.

This disparity between an event and its long-term repercussions provides an important reminder for leaders everywhere, of the difference between how we might see things in our organization and how our employees experience them.

Consider, for example, when your organization experiences a loss or failure like when your organization loses a key contract to a competitor despite your team’s efforts, or when a new product/service that’s been championed to be your organization’s next great accomplishment fails to deliver on that promise.

In those moments, it’s only natural that the prevailing mood in your organization will be gloomy – that your employees will feel discouraged, possibly even disillusioned because they believed in their potential to succeed.

It’s in these moments where our leadership is needed most – not simply to Click here to continue reading »”A Year-End Note Of Inspiration To Keep Pushing Ahead”

3 Important Lessons Leaders Can Learn From Success

3 important lessons leaders can learn from success that will help them inspire and motivate employees over the long run.

If there’s one attribute organizations and leaders everywhere share in common, it’s the pursuit to achieve success in their collective efforts. Granted, there is quite a large variance in terms of how each organization chooses to define what success would look like for them. But there’s little question that – at the end of the day – all of us are driven by the need to know that we’ll one day achieve success through our contributions and efforts.

Of course, there’s another aspect to success that many of us share in common and that is what do we do once we achieve that success? And by this, I’m not referring to how we choose to acknowledge or celebrate this accomplishment. Rather, I’m referring to that moment when the dust settles and we look with pride at what we’ve attained and find ourselves stuck with that lingering question – so, what do we do now?

If you look at any successful organization, you can see the answer they share in common: the focus tends to be on how to replicate both the conditions and measures they took that allowed them to achieve this successful outcome.

In some cases, this manifests itself in incremental improvements over the current product or service, something that’s become a key tactic of every major smartphone manufacturer.

Others, though, might look at how their concept, product, or idea ‘disrupted’ a market or industry and then go about looking for how to graft that approach onto other industries, which is why there’s an ongoing search to discover what will no doubt be initially described as ‘the next Uber’.

Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these approaches in the short term, a recent conversation with one of my daughters helped to crystallize how we’re missing out on the important lessons to be learned from success in terms of the long view.

Last week, my daughter Malaika was among a select group of students at her high school who were recognized for their achievement of earning an year-round average of over 90%. This was her second year in a row where she earned an over 90% average, and I was curious to learn how she viewed achieving this level of success a second time around.

For example, does she believe she’s found the approach to achieve these high marks and all she has to do is to simply repeat these measures going forward? Or does she expect things to change and the need to adapt her approach to remain among the top students at her school?

Obviously, this quandary reflects similar questions leaders face when their organization finally succeeds in achieving its objectives. And after talking with Malaika to learn more about her perspective on this, I realized that her example sheds some light on three important lessons we can learn from success, lessons that go beyond where our next innovation or idea will come from to understanding what drives us over the long run to bring our best efforts to what we do.

1. Success teaches us to be persistent no matter what stands in our way
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in Malaika’s outlook is how she views the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks she encounters in her studies. Since earning that first over-90% average two years ago, she’s become more driven when she faces a difficult challenge or obstacle. In many ways, she’s come to learn that the inevitable difficulties she’ll face are not a reason to give up, but simply a sign that she has to push herself even harder if she wants to continue to succeed in her efforts.

Similarly, after organizations achieve a success milestone, there is the tendency to avoid daunting obstacles or approaches that could rock the boat, and instead, focus on taking initiatives that serve more to solidify or reinforce their past successes.

Now, that’s not to say that we need to constantly disrupt what we do. Rather, it means that we need to be mindful in ensuring that our successes don’t result in our being complacent in challenging ourselves to figure out how we can do and be better going forward. Something that is especially true when organizations are facing obstacles that would require a substantial amount of time and resources to overcome in order to achieve a critical goal going forward.

And here we can find the first important lesson success provides us about how to Click here to continue reading »”3 Important Lessons Leaders Can Learn From Success”

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Inspiring Those We Lead To Build A Better Tomorrow

A message for leaders to inspire those they lead to believe in their potential and the lessons they've learned that can help to build a better tomorrow.

Around this time of the year, it’s become a common sight to see commencement speeches from high school and university graduation ceremonies being shared on leadership sites as inspiration on how we can better serve those we lead.

The popularity of these kinds of speeches in leadership circles is not too surprising when we consider how the very nature of the commencement speech is to draw attention to the lessons learned and how they can be applied going forward to create a future filled with purpose, meaning, and joy.

Indeed, this speaks to the very heart of what it takes to be a successful leader, as leadership is not just about getting results, but finding ways to inspire those you lead to be better [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

That’s why I’m taking this opportunity to share the commencement speech I gave this past weekend at the high school where I serve as Governing Board Chairman, a speech that was also a very personal one as my daughter Alya was among the hundreds of graduates whose achievements we were there to celebrate.

As someone who writes, speaks and works with leaders to help them better understand what it takes bring out the best in those they lead, it was a genuine privilege to be able to inspire this group of newly minted graduates about what they can achieve going forward.

It was a privilege to deliver this speech because as leaders, we have an obligation to inspire passion and excitement for what the future might hold [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter]; for what those we lead can do, for what they can become, and how they can live a life that matters.

Indeed, it was my hope that in sharing this message to this new generation of leaders, inventors, team players, and game-changers that they would appreciate that optimism is not the absence of negativity, but the ability to rise above despite it [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter], a message that unfortunately bears repeating in light of the numerous challenges dogging our world today.

Amid all the wonderful comments I received from the students, staff, and parents in attendance at this weekend’s graduation ceremony, there was one comment which I got from one of the many proud mothers in attendance that compelled me to share my speech with my readers.

When this mother approached me after the ceremony, she thanked me for speaking to the students; of making my message be about them and their future. And then she paused for a moment and then added “thanks also for inspiring the rest of us and reminding us of what we could do as well”.

This mother’s comment illustrates an important point that every leader should remember; that it’s not enough to talk of a better tomorrow; we need to inspire people to want to make it happen [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

That’s why I wanted to share this commencement speech here on my blog – as a reminder of this simple truth; that when we help others to succeed, we help ourselves to become that better version of who we can be [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

I hope you enjoy it and find within it the seeds of inspiration and hope that we can do better and be better going forward.

* * * Click here to continue reading »”Inspiring Those We Lead To Build A Better Tomorrow”

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