Leadership Inspiration

Find Out What Makes a Leader Inspirational to People

Business man looking towards the city.
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"Coaching isn't a great mystery. It's just hard work, determination, and inspiration at the right moment." --Bob Zuppke in The Book of Football Wisdom edited by Criswell Freeman, 1996.

"Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow." --Vince Lombardi

What makes a leader inspirational? The ability to inspire people to reach great heights of performance and success is a skill that leaders need.

Too few leaders are capable of exhibiting the qualities that employees most seek in the person they think of as their leader. It is these qualities that employees choose to follow.

Many senior leaders expect that employees will follow them because of their title, their company ownership, or their place in the organization's hierarchy. And, honestly, many employees do follow a leader for these reasons. But, that does not mean that the leader inspires their best work, support, and contribution. 

Passion, purpose, listening and meaning help make a leader inspirational. Exhibiting these qualities and characteristics is a must if you wish to inspire the best work from your employees. An inspirational leader does not just tell employees that he or she is deeply committed to their customer's experience.

The leader must demonstrate this commitment and passion in every meeting, presentation, and in how the leader handles and tells employees to handle customer woes.

The leader's behavior must inspire employees to act in the same way.

Communication, integrity, inclusion, and sensitivity to the needs of the employees round out the qualities and characteristics of an inspirational leader. No one is inspired by a leader whom people think does not care about them.

The ability to communicate that passion, purpose, and meaning to others helps establish the inspirational culture of your organization.

The following points will tell you how to enable inspiration and motivation in the people that you lead.

How Leaders Instill Inspiration in the People They Lead

The inspirational leader feels passionate about the vision and mission of the organization. He or she is also able to share that passion in a way that enables others to feel passionate, too. Shared passion makes organizations soar in the accomplishment of their mission and vision.

The nature of the vision and mission is critical for enabling others to feel as if their work has a purpose and meaning beyond the tasks they perform each day. Sometimes leaders have to help their staff connect the dots by explaining this big picture to all. Communicating the big picture regularly will help reinforce the reason your organization exists.

The inspirational leader listens to the people in her organization. Talking to people about your passion is not enough. To share meaning—a favorite and meaningful definition of communication—you must allow the ideas and thoughts of your staff to help form the vision and mission, or minimally, the goals and action plan. No one is ever one hundred percent supportive of a direction they had no part in formulating.

People need to see their ideas incorporated—or understand why they were not.

To experience inspiration, people also need to feel included. Inclusion goes beyond the realm of listening and providing feedback. For real inclusion, people need to feel intimately connected to the actions and process that are leading to the accomplishment of the goals or the final decision.

A client company canceled an annual employee event because of customer orders for their product. Many people did not like the decision, but the company had involved the whole management group, the Activity Committee members and many other employees in the discussion about whether to cancel or re-schedule the event.

The inclusion led to a compromise that, while not perfect, still enabled a celebration and a positive morale boost, yet allowed the company to meet customer needs.

Since customer needs are paramount, and the employees agreed, the company's decision, made with employee input, also gave them nothing to push back against.

Important to inspiration is the integrity of the person leading. Yes, vision and passion are important, but your employees must trust you if you want them to feel inspired. They must believe in your integrity and see it played out in decisions and customer and employee treatment.

They must believe in you. Your person is as important as the direction you provide. Employees look up to a person who tells the truth, tries to do the right things, lives a good, principled life and who does their best. Trust this. Your actions play out on the stage of your organization. And, your staff does boo and cheer and vote with their feet and their actions. Your human behavior that has congruity with your speaking and acting is always center stage.

Finally, an inspirational leader gives people what they want within his capabilities. (You can’t provide a raise in pay without company profitability, as an example, but you absolutely must share the rewards if the organization is doing well.)

The inspirational leader also understands that, while money is a motivator, so are praise, recognition, rewards, a thank you and noticing an individual’s contribution to a successful endeavor. Speaking directly to a contributing employee about the value that their work provides for the organization is a key source of inspiration for the recipient.

The actions that you take every day at work are powerful beyond your wildest dreams. Make sure that your actions are inspirational and call out the best from your employees.

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