Inspirational leadership is something that starts from within and carries over to the way you interact with team members daily. Inspirational leaders are agents of positive change, sometimes taking risks in their approach. These kinds of leaders ultimately leave the people they work with feeling inspired, motivated, and connected.
Why is this important? An inspiring leader is proven to strengthen morale, inspire action, significantly raises individual and team performance levels, and ignite creativity and innovation.
In this article, you will learn how to become an inspirational leader through practical exercises based on the theory of emotional intelligence.
What is Inspirational Leadership?
In the book, Emotional Intelligence, author Daniel Goleman defines the competency of inspirational leadership as:
The ability to inspire, to guide people to get the job done, to bring out their best. With inspiration, you can articulate a shared mission in a way that motivates and offer a sense of common purpose beyond people’s day-to-day tasks.
Inspirational leaders can empower others to develop a passion for their work and how they accomplish it. This has considerable benefits for both the leader and employees.
So, what traits do inspirational leaders demonstrate?
Bain Research surveyed two thousand people, asking them to describe the characteristics of an inspirational leader. The research showed that there are 33 attributes that people think of when they consider inspirational traits.
The traits fall under four categories: developing inner resources, connecting with others, setting the tone, and leading the team.
Empathy, empowerment, self-actualization, and optimism are some of the traits described within these categories. Yet, interestingly the research found that centeredness was a trend amongst participants as the most crucial trait of an inspiring leader.
They further explained in their findings that, “Centeredness is a state of greater mindfulness, achieved by engaging all parts of the mind to be fully present. It improves one’s ability to stay level-headed, cope with stress, empathize with others and listen more deeply. Centeredness is the nexus of the other 32 elements and mandatory skill. [It] is a precondition to using one’s leadership strengths effectively.”
To become centered, one must have strong emotional intelligence. For example, self-awareness, relationship management, social awareness, and self-management are critical skills for any leader seeking to be grounded.
How to Develop Inspirational Leadership Skills
As the research shows, if you connect with others and utilize emotional intelligence, you will contribute to a company culture that your entire team can get behind.
Some leaders seem to have a natural talent for inspiring others, but there are steps you can take to develop your skills as an inspirational leader:
1. Get to Know Your Team.
By learning about what your team members value and how they work best, you will be able to find unique ways to uplift them. It’s also important to look for the strengths of your team members and how they align with your company's goals. A good leader will also genuinely listen, show compassion, and provide a supportive, empowering environment for the team to thrive.
2. Identify Your Core Values
Your values as a leader impact all your decisions and actions in the workplace. They allow you to inspire others, influence decisions and have a positive impact on your organization.
Inspirational leaders have a clear understanding of what their values are and don’t cave under pressure in situations where they’d need to sacrifice their values to achieve a result. It’s important to identify your values early on and keep them at the forefront.
3. Create a Shared Vision
Creating a shared vision will help your team members see that there is a reason and a deeper meaning in the work they accomplish. As the leader, your team looks to you to make sure they are all working toward the vision and staying on course. The way you talk about the team’s vision and incorporate it into everything you do can inspire your team to embrace the vision and work harder to achieve it.
Once you have considered these aspects, you need to implement a plan. An excellent way to go about this is with an EQ Game Plan and a roadmap.
EQ Game Plan
An emotional intelligence (EQ) Game Plan is a series of questions used to gain clarity and direction on what you need to succeed. It was developed by Christopher D. Conners, author of Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader.
These questions require deep, reflective thought. Before you answer them, find a place of quiet solitude, clear your mind, and do some deep breathing (see the Terrific Trio practice in the article about self-awareness).
You want to be fully present to find the answers to this essential practice of emotional intelligence.
What do you want? Do you want to inspire? Do you want to seek change for the greater good? Answering the age-old question of “what do I want?” is imperative.
What are your values? This could be loyalty, honesty, respect, courage, etc.
What are your passions? What fuels your fire?
What is your purpose? Why are you doing what you do?
What is your mission? How do you define success?
What are your goals which have a measurable outcome?
In answering these questions, you will understand how you can contribute to your team as a leader and what you need from your team.
Create a Roadmap
Next, you will want to create a plan that coincides with your passions, motivations, purpose, mission, values, and goals. It is much easier to uplift others to match your energy when you are inspired yourself.
What exactly do I want to accomplish?
Why are these goals important to me?
How can I develop my skills to meet these goals?
Identify your strengths and the skills that you are lacking. Narrow down which ones you should focus on by cross referencing them with your core values and personal mission statement. Examples of skills to develop include managing conflict, building effective teams, empowering team members, delegating based on the strengths of your team members.
What is my action plan? Your action plan lays out the specific steps you’ll take, resources you’ll use, and the support system you’ll build to reach your goals. Write these in order of importance and create a timeline for when you aim to achieve these goals.
Answering these questions will provide you with a road map for achieving your goals and becoming the leader you want to be. This will inspire you to influence your team with focus, drive, and of course, emotional intelligence.
An Example of Inspirational Leadership
One example of an inspirational leader is Elon Musk, the founder and Chief Engineer at SpaceX and Product Architect of Tesla. Elon is known for disrupting the status quo in many industries. His bold ideas and passion enable him to instill a sense of purpose in his employees and turn them into a close-knit team that constantly innovates and is comfortable with change.
Elon Musk also has unwavering confidence in himself and his capabilities while being on a quest for continuous improvement.
Your title makes you a manager but your people make you a leader…If you are a manager or leading at any level at SpaceX, we stress that your team is not there to serve you. You are there to serve your team and help them do the best possible job for the company. This applies to me most of all. - Elon Musk
Inspiring Leadership: Unskilled, Skilled, or Overusing
The following are examples of how you may be falling short, skilled, or over-the-top in the competency of inspiring leadership.
Does not utilize grounding techniques.
Provides feedback without helping to apply solutions.
Does not take the time to solidify goals, values, and purpose.
Operates with low emotional intelligence (EQ).
Is not enthusiastic about their work.
Utilizes grounding techniques to remain centered.
Evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of colleagues as a means of strengthening the organization.
Clearly understands their goals, values, motivation, passion, and purpose.
Connected with those that they lead.
Is enthusiastic about their work which translates through the company culture.
Inspires their team but focuses on the wrong outcomes.
Micromanages instead of mentoring.
Spends too much time reflecting on their goals, values, and purpose and not enough time executing.
They become so passionate about their work that they become overzealous and cannot meet goals.
Strive for Excellence to Inspire
Before we conclude, think for a moment about a leader that inspires you. It could be the Dalai Lama, a mentor, or even a parent. Consider the example they set and why they inspire you. You can use their influence to help you achieve the vision of your dreams. Allow the lessons they taught you to inform the kind of leader you will become.
Allow the people around you to inspire you. Take the time for reflection to understand your goals and how you can motivate your team to create a thriving company culture, happier employees, and more profitable revenue streams.
Take these reflections and beam out a centered and inspiring leader. Be the one who leads through their ability to understand themselves, their colleagues, and their company for the success of all.
Train Leaders Virtually is a personalized solution that combines the power of online learning with the support of a one-on-one session with a professional leadership coach.
Discover personalized insights and skills to lead yourself and others during challenging times.