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4 characteristics of inspiring leaders

inspiring leadershipThere’s something about inspirational leadership that affects us on a visceral level. When we think of leaders such as Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg—we can’t help but stand in awe of their achievements and their influence. These are individuals who have built powerful personal brands with passionate followings, and who are looked up to the world over.

It might seem like a tall order to live up to internationally-known greats like these and others, but you don’t necessarily need a global soapbox in order to be inspiring to others.

Strong leadership within a smaller venue such as the workplace is more than enough to leave a positive influence on others and shape an on-site mindset and culture in a way that has a positive impact not just on the company but on your employees, their families, and their communities as well. The ripple effects are truly ever-expanding.

So what are the characteristics of inspiring leaders? There are many, to be sure, but here are 4 that tend to stand out above all others:


Clear Vision

Unsurprisingly, it all begins with a vision. Inspiring leaders are often innovative visionaries who see possibilities where others don’t.

Consider innovators such as Steve Jobs, who completely disrupted the status quo when it came to mass-market consumer electronics. Elon Musk is another great example of an innovator, whose companies continue to raise the bar in the technology space and others.

You don’t have to be a business magnate to master the art of clear vision, however.

Clear vision is just as important in the workplace, where the most effective way to inspire passion in your team members is to clearly articulate the company’s Why, i.e. Why do you do what you do? Why does it matter? What are the greater implications, and what role does each employee play in that? Just as importantly, where is the company going, and how can everyone make a contribution toward getting there?

This all forms the basis of your company’s mission statement, and is a way to not just unify your team but also inspire them with a ‘big picture’ that they can believe in and subscribe to.


Good Listeners

When most of us picture charismatic and highly productive leaders, we most likely imagine high-energy men and women who are great at talking and conveying big ideas.

But inspirational leadership is just as much about listening as it is speaking.

After all, employees want to feel heard and validated. When they are, they feel like a valued member of the team whose contributions matter, which can positively impact overall job satisfaction, leading to improved productivity and work quality.

Part of inspiring your team means encouraging them to share their ideas and perspectives, offer their feedback, and contribute to a common goal. This allows everyone to be an active participant in the workplace and creates a shared sense of value among your employees, where everyone is important.

Do you currently have an open-door policy in your workplace where employees can speak with you privately about any concerns or ideas they have? Are your meetings run in such a way that all team members have the opportunity to participate in a healthy and productive dialogue where all ideas are respected and welcomed?

Inspiring leaders understand that part of nurturing their following means providing regular opportunities for their team members to shine and contribute in order for the greater whole to benefit.


Invest in Team

A leader isn’t a leader without a following, and for that following to thrive, leaders need to dedicate themselves to their team members’ development.

Inspiring leaders understand this, and the growth of their people is one of their foremost concerns. They recognise that no one wants to feel stagnant, whether it’s in their personal or professional lives, and in light of this, they provide numerous opportunities for their team members to develop.

What are some ways that you invest in your employees in the workplace? This can entail offering one-on-one leadership coaching to those you mentor, providing stipends to employees for continuing education purposes, or even offering on-site lunch-and-learn programs, where employees can receive professional training on a variety of topics from health and wellness and finances to time management and productivity.

Development opportunities can also mean allowing your team members to grow into new roles that are better suited to their unique talents. Do your employees feel challenged by their current tasks? If not, allow them to stretch by delegating new responsibilities to them where they’re better able to focus on their core strengths—a move that almost always leads to happier and more fulfilled employees.


Positive Attitude

Perhaps one of the most important characteristic of an inspirational leader is the attitude they possess day in and day out.

Consider some of the names we mentioned earlier. A commonality among these leaders is their positive and ambitious attitude. We know from stories we’ve heard of both their successes and failures that they remained persistent and resilient no matter what challenges came their way, choosing to learn from their setbacks instead of letting those setbacks define them.

Inspirational leaders know how to stay level-headed in the face of a crisis. Instead of dwelling on problems, they spend their energy on creating solutions, drawing out insights and ideas from their team members in order to develop new goals and plans of attack.

But a positive attitude goes beyond crisis management. It also applies to the day-to-day dealings of the workplace. Do you, for instance, adequately acknowledge and praise your team members for their contributions? Do you regularly celebrate team successes? Do you do your part in creating a positive working environment where team members thrive?

All of these practices go hand-in-hand with inspirational leadership and can make all the difference in nurturing the very people you wish to effectively lead.


Inspiring leadership is a powerful tool. When you’re able to inspire others, you have the valuable opportunity to make a positive difference not only in the workplace but in the lives of those on your team. Inspirational leadership has the potential to shape an entire organisational culture, elevating the mindsets and work ethics of everyone within a company and is often why high-influence leaders end up inspiring entire movements.

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