Inspired Madmen

invention-60529_1920Have you read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield? If you’ve ever struggled to maintain motivation or conquer internal demons, you should pick it up. It’s a bit off the wall, but great.

In the book, Pressfield talks a lot about muses. If you’ve forgotten your Greek mythology (I had!), the Muses are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne and provide inspiration for artists. Pressfield offers the following quote from Socrates: “If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the Muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection but are utterly eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman.”

I’m a fan of technique and process. There are right and wrong ways to do things not only in the field of management but also in the realm of leadership. However, the guy or gal who combines technique (which you can learn) with inspiration (whether provided by Muse or genetic makeup) will eclipse the leader who only relies on technique. Every dang time!

Can you learn inspiration? I don’t think so. Can you find it? Yes!

I’ve worked with executives who weren’t necessarily inspired by the product or service they offered yet were extremely motivated to succeed. Those from the C-suite to the shop floor show more commitment when they’re emotionally attached to the organization rather than just their independent role within the organization.

Creating an inspired team that shows commitment (e.g., enthusiasm, willingness to help team members and public displays of support for the company) should be one of the CEO’s key objectives. As usual, it all starts at the top!

How do you do this?

  1. Articulate a clear and compelling vision. You don’t need to colonize Mars, but you must show people that your business exists for a damn good reason!
  2. Hire people who believe in your vision. If you clearly articulate  and move toward it, it will draw people toward you if their interests align. Those who don’t feel an emotional attachment will often self-select out.
  3. Create role clarity and job design that allows everyone to participate in the organization’s success. They must know how they contribute to achievements.
  4. Communicate like crazy! Most CEOs under communicate on key issues. Communication is the glue that holds it all together!
  5. Reward those who add value, and redirect those who don’t.

While No. 2 depends on finding people who align with your vision, the other four relate directly to leadership — and yes, it must begin at the top!

If you’re in a leadership or management role, stop thinking about compliance and start considering commitment! Commitment isn’t something you “do” to people, but there are things you must do to allow it to flourish.

If you’re the top dog and aren’t inspired, let the Muses find you another home. Your people deserve to be led by someone who’s emotionally attached to what he or she is doing.

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  • Don Van Winkle

    3:49 pm October 26, 2016

    Well said Todd. The War of Art is an excellent and inspiring read. Don Van Winkle

    • Todd Ordal

      3:53 pm October 26, 2016

      Thanks, Don. I recently re-read it. Sometimes re-reading the good stuff is far preferable to new material that is just re-packaged stuff.