Five things this pandemic can teach us about how to inspire

Do you ever notice that light is most intense when it is streaming into a darkened room or shining in a night sky? In the same way, it is often easiest to spot inspiration in very dark times. COVID-19 is teaching us a lot about both the cracks in our institutions and systems, the darkest aspects of human nature and the increasing fragility of our health and our environment. It is also teaching us about the resilience of the human spirit and the places where we are strong.

Among the many things this dark time is teaching us, is that leaders can learn a lot about how to inspire others when we pay attention to what is inspiring us. Here are five things people all around us are teaching us about how to inspire. 

1.      We are inspired by people who put themselves at risk in service of others.

The daily courage that this pandemic has revealed to us is breathtaking. Health care workers and first responders across the globe have shown up day-after-day in stressful and often dangerous conditions, risking their lives and the health of their families to care for critically ill and highly contagious patients. We are also inspired and humbled by the largely unseen, often under valued and underpaid essential workers like grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, eldercare workers, maintenance staff, delivery people and particularly this autumn, teachers, who do not have the luxury to work from home. We are seeing courage on a massive scale and inspiring acts of service all around us.

2.      We are inspired by simple acts of kindness and compassion.

We often think of inspiring leadership as something that happens on a grand scale, like inspiring a movement or inspiring a nation. But inspiring leadership also happens in the little gestures.

We are inspired by the corner store owner in the poor neighbourhood who is giving away food to his regular customers. We are inspired by people dropping off homemade soup and baking to people in quarantine. We are inspired by people reaching out to check on friends and neighbours and going out of their way to give us room on the sidewalk.

3.      We are inspired by people who tell us the truth, especially when that truth is hard.

During this crisis, we have seen inspiring examples of tough truth-telling from public health and political leaders in Canada and around the world. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen examples of leaders denying, hiding or ignoring the truth about this pandemic with devastating consequences. If we learn nothing else from this crisis, I hope we learn that telling the truth, even when it is unpopular is inspiring and can save lives.

4.      We are inspired when people are generous with their gifts and talents in service of others.

Musicians, performers, artists, writers are finding new and creative ways to share their gifts online. Following the mass shooting this spring in Nova Scotia, musicians and artists, community leaders came together for an on-line vigil sharing their talents to support those grieving the senseless murder of 22 people. While we were inspired by their talent and moved by their performances, we were most inspired by their generosity and compassion.

5.      We don’t have to be the source of inspiration to inspire.

Despite all that is challenging about this crisis, I am inspired every day. Whether it is the courage on the front lines, the simple acts of kindness to those who are grieving or in need of help or the gifts of creativity, if we know what to look for, it can feel like the whole world is calling us to something higher. Inspiration is a call to your highest, most generous, most compassionate self. What this teaches us is that we do not always need to be the source of inspiration to inspire. We sometimes just need to look for it in the everyday places, acknowledge it and share it with others when we find it.

Here is a simple practice to bring more inspiration into your life.

At the end of each day, write down one thing, one moment or one person that inspired you today. Reflect on how bringing that to mind makes you feel and what it is teaching you about how you might inspire others.

Image by NRThaele

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About the author:

Cathy Jacob

Cathy brings a unique skill for deep listening, an unwavering belief in her clients and a gentle sense of humour to her coaching practice. She opened a full time coaching practice in 2004 and in 2009, she co-founded Fire Inside Leadership to expand the impact of leadership development and coaching in her community and beyond.

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