15 Inspiring Leadership Acts

The last post on this blog explained the differences between motivation (internal drivers that push each of us) and inspiration (external animating forces that pull the best out of others). Here are 15 practical leadership suggestions that can inspire others. Any single suggestion produces positive results. The effects rise exponentially when leaders consistently apply multiple approaches over a sustained period.

Before I launch into the list, let me highlight a subtle trap. Essentially all these suggestions fall into the “I knew that” category, but that’s irrelevant. Many of us too often fall into the I-knew-that-but-I-don’t-do-that category. The key difference between great and average leaders is not what they know about leadership, but what they consistently do as leaders.

  1. Understand “what” motivates someone before we begin talking about “how” to inspire them. We mistakenly presume too much or overlay our own motivators on others. There are assessments available to help you understand the motivational drivers of your people. Consider using them as tools to help you lead.
  2. Inspiring excellence is about aligning talents and passions with job requirements and objectives. Business people frequently place too much value on experience and skills and ignore or devalue the importance of core talents. If someone works in a job that utilizes their core talents they will most likely be more successful, and that success energizes them.
  3. People respond reluctantly to a position. Relationships inspire them. Leaders must make sustained investment into the lives of others.
  4. Understand their price point. Everyone has a different price point beyond which they will not voluntarily go—you need to know where it is.
  5. Everyone inherently aspires to belong to something bigger than themselves. People are not inspired by a corporate brand. A soldier fights and dies for the person in the foxhole beside them not the U.S. Army. In the absence of a shared vision / common objectives, we all default to personal motivation drivers (i.e, is this good for me?).
  6. Principled. Resolute. Predictable. Make sound, principle-based decisions. People despise weathervane managers who too often allow the latest idea or the last voice to sway decisions. Resoluteness also cultivates courage in others.
  7. Good people inspire others around them. They constructively urge each other on to better performance and unlock positive peer pressure. On the flip side, unchallenged poor performance is a huge de-motivator. Good people will resent it and eventually leave.
  8. Sacrifice inspires people…especially when it benefits them. It’s not about YOU!
  9. People reciprocally respond with loyalty when leaders “have their backside.” Team members deal with enough uncertainty and surprises in their lives without having to wonder whether the leader will loyally support them.
  10. Be a compassionate and timely straight shooter. Don’t coddle people and hide bad news. Be honest about individual and company performance.
  11. Leadership confidence and energy are contagious. Your passion ignites those around you. Your pessimism drains them.
  12. Genuineness attracts people. We react to self-serving pretentiousness with revulsion.
  13. Celebrate success! None of us likes to feel stagnant. Openly acknowledge progress and express gratitude for the contributions of others.
  14. Committed to learning. People feel inspired by those who humbly admit and learn from their mistakes. Transparent students of life and business unlock the native streak of curiosity in us all.
  15. Daily practice gratitude. Sharing credit inspires a sense of belonging and fulfills our inherent need to make a contribution. Leaders who regularly express gratitude for the contribution of others inspire team members to do more.

Select a few of these inspiring acts to practice during the coming week.