The 2 “eyes” that every leader needs to have

In the past few months, I’ve been intentionally seeking ways to be personally inspired. Why? When I lived an inspired life, I find that I am able to motivate my team and people I help everyday. I am a career coach. I help people find the intersection of calling and career. I discovered that when I wake up everyday with a posture of inspiration, I capture it, digest it, and then it becomes a part of who I am. It would be so easy to put aside inspiration for the tyranny of the urgent; emails, meetings, to-do lists.

Instead, finding space to be inspired, whether that’s listening to a podcast on my commute or listening intently to my clients for meaningful connections, that’s when I am at my best as a leader.

Inspiration and influence feed off each other. When I am inspired, I lead with more passion and courage. When I am influencing, I am engaging people as humans, not as pawns to be moved from point A to point B. I find beauty in every conversation and in every story.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” — John C. Maxwell

There are no silver bullets to leadership. Every industry, organization, and generation brings a different flavor to the topic of leadership and a myriad of expectations of what makes a great leader. At the end of the day, leadership is not about roles or titles, it’s about creating positive impact in another persons’ life.

Just as the title suggests, every leader must have two “eyes” or they can’t lead: Influence and Inspiration. 

every leader needs to have these two eyes - man kneeling

1) Leadership is about “Influence”

The first “eye” in leadership is influence. Influence, if improperly welded, can be a form of coercion or manipulation. We hear the word “influence” and our throat closes up and palms become sweaty because our synaptic connections have associated “influence” with a superior who once yelled something like, “I’m just trying to get you to do something right!”

That’s not what I’m talking about here. That’s not I mean when I say influence. Influence is about creating experiences for people they lead to trust and follow where they’re going.

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” — John Maxwell

Leaders must be invested in the people they lead. At the same time, leaders must have the awareness and vision to see beyond today’s problems to accomplish tomorrow’s goals. They need to navigate the obstacles called “life” that each person brings to the conversation and choose to be one step ahead of everyone they lead.

Check out 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell if you want to read more about it.

Why this “eyes” of leadership is helpful metaphor for me is because I am legally blind — I have horrible vision. I started wearing glasses in the 3rd grade, almost lost my eyes with hard contact lenses in junior high, and dream of the day when I can afford Lasik surgery. One time I was surfing and a wave took a contact out of my right eye. Salt water doesn’t recover soft contact lenses like you think they might, but I was desperate. I could hardly measure the speed, size, and depth of the oncoming waves. Worse yet, I still had to drive and hour to get home with only one eye!

Leadership can’t have a single eye! Influence needs Inspiration.


2) Leadership is about “Inspiration”

Leadership doesn’t end with influence. If you only have one eye, you lack depth perception and clarity.

“A true leader is a person whose influence inspires people to do what is expected of them to do. You cease to be a leader when you manipulate with your egos instead of convincing by your inspirations.”  Israelmore Ayivor

Leaders convince people to believe in a brighter future simply by the inspiration they bring to the table. Inspiration is the catalyst for innovation and creativity.

But inspiration isn’t something you simply stumble on or hack, it must be cultivated. Leaders are constantly on the lookout for inspiring moments. Each inspiration is fuel for the journey ahead and may be the spark their team needs to be great.

For me, I have been intentional in developing a habit to excavate inspiration. If I’m not intentional, I will succumb to inspiration apathy; a lack of vision for beauty in every moment. The antidote is an intention towards inspiration. Every movie I watch, every podcast I listen to, every book I read, every song I submerse myself into — each moment is teeming with inspiration waiting to be uncovered.

Great leaders inspire their teams by being inspired themselves. Here’s what John Paul Warren had to say about this:

“True leaders bring out your personal best. They ignite your human potential.” — John Paul Warren

The two eyes of leadership — influence and inspiration — are perhaps the most important qualities any leader must have in order to make a positive impact in the world around them.