Biz tips: Five strategies for becoming an inspirational leader

Joan McGuire

Never miss an opportunity to share what you are passionate about. 

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For years, leaders have asked me how to motivate people. Regardless of whether you’re talking about large teams or small teams, sales teams or project teams, the answer is the same. You can’t motivate people. Motivation comes from within and people are either self-motivated or they’re not.

The most effective means of spurring people on to better performance and greater results is by inspiring them. In contrast to motivation, which comes from within, inspiration comes from others.

We – as leaders – inspire people by who we are, by what we do or by what we did.

Why strive to be more inspiring? An inspiring leader will instill in people the desire to excel and reach for new goals or higher levels of achievement. An inspiring leader will spark people’s imagination so they dream bigger. An inspiring leader creates belief so people will resolve to overcome obstacles. And if you become an inspiring leader, it will cause people to strive to emulate you, will cause them to work to earn your respect, and will cause them to align with your passion, your purpose and your vision.


As you can see, the impact of being inspiring is significant. Of course, the big question is how to become inspiring. What transforms a leader into an inspirational leader? Here are five strategies for becoming a more inspiring leader:

1. Never miss the opportunity to share what you’re passionate about. People are attracted to and respond to leaders who are passionate about something. When a leader is passionate, people will follow and be inspired by them.

2. Use stories to make your point and paint a picture. People relate to stories and analogies, and when told effectively, will evoke an emotional response. A well-told story can be very inspiring.

3. Share past challenges that you’ve overcome. It doesn’t have to be a major life-altering challenge; it can be any kind of physical, mental or emotional challenge you overcame that made a difference in your life. People are inspired by those who overcame adversity.

4. Set an example of high integrity. Do what you say you’re going to do. Show up on time. Return phone calls and emails. Finish projects on time or ahead of time. And don’t be afraid to let people know when you’ve gone out of your way to do what you said you would do. People are inspired by leaders who earn their trust and respect through their actions.

5. Let others know what matters to you. Become clear on the values that matter most to you. Reflect throughout the day as to whether your actions are in alignment with those values you say matter. Leaders who live their values inspire people. (Conversely, saying one thing but doing another is not very inspiring.)

To move your team into high gear, forget about trying to motivate them and instead, focus on becoming an inspiring leader.

Michael Beck is a Portland-based executive coach, business strategist and author of leadership book, “Eliciting Excellence.”