Inspire Others? Yes You Can

What does a leader do to inspire others? And how can you, as a leader, awaken this positive and powerful source of human potential?

Inspiration is derived from two Latin words, in and spirare, translated as “to breathe in”. It is, perhaps, best described as a force that, when experienced or “breathed in”, changes the way we see the world and ourselves.

When inspiration strikes, we may experience the mundane or everyday as suddenly infused with possibilities. Ideas spill forth freely while obstacles seem to fall away. We feel empowered, exhilarated, and able to work long hours while remaining highly focused on our goals.

Inspiration is a highly positive force that can transform the lives of the inspired and, especially, those they touch. It can drive us to accomplish goals and reach levels of achievement we previously did not think possible.

Inspiration. Not Just for “Big” Personalities

Maybe to you, the capacity to become inspired by others ideas or accomplishments may seem like a real possibility while, at the same time, the ability to inspire others may seem very much out of reach. 

This discrepancy may be accounted for, in part, by a commonly held view that inspirational leaders are those rare individuals who use the power of their charismatic and compelling personalities to mobilize large audiences into action. Most of us do not see ourselves as having this gift.

However, though a positive, powerful personality may be very effective in inspiring others, it is not the only way.

The rest of us, leaders who may be more introverted and/or better at working in smaller groups, also have the power to inspire.

So, if the influence of a big personality is not the only way to cause people in an organization to say, “Yes! I will follow your lead. I am so excited by this new idea! I will do everything within my power to make this plan a success,” what is it?

The key ingredient to inspiring others is to tap into and awaken the inspirational source within each person. 

This is accomplished by learning to identify and engage five, typically latent, human sources that (individually or in combination) function to inspire us. These include,

  • Making a Contribution,
  • Tapping into Character
  • Engaging the Imagination
  • Demonstrating Empathy
  • Expecting the Best.

How then do you determine what another’s inspirational source actually is?

Actually the process is quite simple. It involves three steps.

  1. I ask a person to tell me a story about a leader that inspired them at some point in his/her life? As I probe a little deeper as the “why?” that person was inspiring it turns out, in some way or another, that the inspirational leader had one of the five characteristics mentioned above.
  2. The next step is to ask them “To you, what is a great day at work?” or “What are you the most proud of at work?” Answers to such questions will give you a sense of what is inspiring to that person.
  3. The final step in finding ways to inspire people at work is to match what inspires them with their actual work assignments.

All of us can help an individual identify his/her unique source and leverage it in the service of a team goal. Hence the beginnings of an engaged and inspired team.

In closing, we leave you with the words of Patanjali, an Indian sage and mystic from 3 B.C., who we think captured the experience of inspiration beautifully when he said:

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds;

Your mind transcends limitations,

Your consciousness expands in every direction,

And you find yourself in a new, great
and wonderful world.

Dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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