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You're Invited...the New Leadership Power

I don't know anyone who doesn't like to receive an invitation (except for maybe one to an IRS audit). Invitations are just fun, but they also evoke a deep emotional response in us as receivers. When we receive an invitation we psychologically hear an implied message of, "I want to be with you...You're one of the few on my list...You're important to me...I like you," and that lights up a critical part of our brain. The power this message has in people, runs deeper than most recognize because it connects to one of our deepest needs, the need to belong. History is full of people saying yes to something they wouldn't have otherwise considered simply because the desire to "be part of" is so intense. So receiving an invitation carries a lot of weight; but have you ever considered the power of an invitation from the side of the sender? It really is an unexplored practice of leading.

So let's explore, and let's start with the action verb, "invite," looking at how it's defined. It has three main meanings:

1. To request the presence or participation of in a kindly, courteous way,

    especially to politely request to come or go to something...or to do


2. To act so as to bring on or render probable.

3. To call forth or give occasion for.

First of all, take note that "invite" is asking-oriented, and non-manipulative - the recipient gets to choose. Secondly, there is a required kindness to the asking; and in case you didn't know, kindness holds benevolence, which is intentional goodwill to benefit the recipient. Lastly, the inviter carries the responsibility for "rendering probable" and making "occasion for"...follower success.

These are key to invitational leadership. They are all follower-centric, rather than leader-centric and require both great capability and great humility on the part of the leader. Invitation, as stated above, recognizes that the followers get to choose, and therefore carry the power. When leaders understand that followers are the ones with the deciding power, it changes how they lead. Sure, I can call the shots, decide strategy and position people for action, but ultimately follower buy-in is critical to sustainable success. I can't force or coerce people to do as I want them and still call myself a leader. I can simply invite follower participation and then protect their success in making missional performance a reality. Anyone who accepts the invitation has to actually want to participate...and keep participating, which is why the use of invitation is so important and powerful. It requires the leader to maintain focus on, respect towards, and partnership with the follower. And research shows that follower-centric, service-oriented leadership produces better organizational culture, which increases follower retention, motivation and production, and these in turn, positively effect the bottom line. When followers feel valued and understood, they are more of everything a leader hopes for.

Go back to the definitions for a moment and then combine that with follower power - a leader must constantly and kindly work at "requesting, rendering probable and giving occasion for" followers to say yes. This is how success happens and how it is sustained. Continual invitation is hard work, but in my opinion it is one of the most critical and effective tools of leadership; for when leaders grasp and utilize the concept of continual invitation they position themselves to lead in the manner most desired by followers and statistically proven to produce the greatest outcomes.

Interestingly, in my years of experience working with couples and families, and doing organizational coaching, I have found this to be true in both. Regardless if you're leading a family or an organization, invitation is one of the most important concepts for leading well. It is active, attentive, involved and it works.

So, when considering what to name my company, I entertained a lot of words and concepts, but ultimately landed on the word "Invite" for a few specific reasons: it's a verb, requiring movement on both the part of the sender and receiver; it's non-coercive, and respects the choice of the follower; the act of inviting forces a yes or no response from recipients, which in consulting helps define the direction and timing; and it's an under-utilized leadership concept that reflects how I desire to lead and run my company.

"Invite" may initially come across as soft for a company title, but I believe it's a subtle and powerful tool in leading others with necessary respect and value. It's also what I am doing with you...inviting you into the future I believe you desire and that your family deserves. And like any good inviter, I hope you'll say YES!

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