Who Does the Leader Look Up To?

by Karen Keller, Ph.D.


Find your leadership inspiration without looking back.

When you’re the one out front, what can you do to find leadership inspiration?

You’ve worked hard and you’ve earned the respect and understanding of your colleagues and team. Now you’re out ahead of the pack. No one can stop you in board meetings and your team looks to you for the type of leadership and advice that they can rely on. In short, everything is coming up roses. Except one thing: where on earth are you going to go from here?  

You’ve heard the phrase “sky is the limit” but what happens when you run out of sky? Well, my friend, you’ve got to shoot for the stars. But when there’s no one else in your field that you really have to look up to, what then? Where do you find inspiration to continue on your path of leadership excellence? I know what you’re thinking: “Karen, stop asking so many questions and start giving me more answers!” 

Well, the thing is, when you’re a leader in your field, you’ve got to look outside the box for inspiration and the answers I give you might be a good start, but ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out where you’ll be finding your inspiration. But here are a few suggestions to get you started. 

Religious figures: Many of us find inspiration from our religious leaders, whether you’re Christian, Buddhist or Muslim, and I think that we should be able to take some of the lessons that they teach to heart in our day to day business dealings. Whether it’s about humility or charity, they can give us a little push in the right direction. 

Civil rights leaders: These folks knew what to do in order to change the world. Sure, it may have taken decades to manifest change, but their voices are the words that inspired millions to change. 

Authors: I’m not saying you’re going to find the answers for business success in the Twilight series, but do try to read books by authors that are out of your comfort zone when it comes to reading. You never know what gems you might find. 

Successful entrepreneurs: Why not look at other success stories? Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both started small and look where they made it! Now that’s inspiration you can take to the bank! 

Professors: While we may find more “real world” success than some of our professors, I find that they can still be great mentors. They knew us back when we were still struggling to make our way and they help put things into perspective.

My point with all of this is that inspiration for leadership can come from just about anywhere and you shouldn’t limit yourself to thinking inside the box for leadership inspiration when thinking outside the box is what got you to where you are today!

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