Inspirational leadership: 3 keys to motivating, empowering people

Inspiration is about motivating, encouraging and influencing others. Inspirational leaders empower others to make their best contributions. They model a positive attitude and set the right example for their people to follow. They collaborate and encourage others to do the same.

They earn people’s trust by delivering on promises and sticking to their commitments. Inspirational leaders employ various influence strategies to meet the needs of different stakeholders. They relate to a vast array of employees by understanding and appreciating diversity. They are authentic and genuine. They possess sufficient humility and appropriately compromise with others to achieve their goals and objectives.

Inspiring others is not a skill that most people are born with. It is cultivated over time as leaders develop, mature and grow. Inspiration is about more than just praising others. It is how leaders motivate, recognize and reward the contributions of their people, and how they help their people grow. Whether it is individually, collectively, or through a talent development program, leaders who treat people as their company’s NO. 1 asset get the most out of their employees.

There are three keys to inspirational leadership. These factors build cultures of excellence when implemented on a regular basis.

1. Consistently reinforce the vision

Inspirational leaders set a vision for others to follow. If you want to motivate people and drive results, you need to be able to captivate your audience around a shared mission and purpose. There are several important steps to reinforcing your organization’s vision. First, you need to create alignment and agreement. Your employees need to feel that they have skin in the game. They need to feel the work they do contributes to the bigger picture. Second, inspirational leaders know how to make course corrections as circumstances change. If you are going to inspire others, you need to be flexible and adaptable. Lastly, inspirational leaders model the right behaviors for others. Leaders who walk the talk show employees that they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to succeed.

2. Speaking words of encouragement

As a leader, what you say matters. People want your encouragement and support. When you recognize and praise people for their efforts, it goes a long way. Choosing the right words reinforces the value that people bring to the team and organization. Being intentional about acknowledge the efforts of others is important. It can be the simple things, like saying “great job,” “this work is really impressive” or “I appreciate what you do.” It makes people feel good about themselves and reinforces high performance. Praising people in front of others is a way to take this to the next level. Make sure you do your homework and put your thoughts together beforehand. Be specific with feedback and spread your comments across your team. Everyone wants a moment in the spotlight and taking time to acknowledge different team members in public strengthens collaboration and camaraderie.

3. Make a commitment to talent development

Leaders who inspire others take time to grow the skills and capabilities of their people. One of the best ways to motivate your employees is to be intentional about helping them develop and grow. There are a variety of ways to do this. One way is through consistent one-on-one developmental conversations. Are you carving out time to help people think about their future? Do you create opportunities for people to take on stretch assignments? Do you provide consistent feedback so they can learn from setbacks or mistakes? Another way to invest in your people is by creating strong talent development programs. The most successful organizations invest in their people. They build leadership development programs that focus on individual and team-based needs. They use things like training and executive education, 360-degree feedback, action learning and mentoring to invest in their people.

Inspirational leadership requires time and commitment to build the necessary skills to unleash the capabilities of your people. Make sure that you work with others to build a vision for the future. Involve your people in the process. Find ways to encourage your people. Be intentional about the words you use and find moments that matter to help strengthen the confidence of others. Lastly, make a commitment to developing the talents of others. Create sustainable programs that people want to be a part of. Make it fun and great learning experiences for your people. Employees want to feel valued and appreciated. It’s up to you to inspire them.

Adam C. Bandelli, Ph.D. is the managing director of Bandelli & Associates, a boutique consulting firm, focusing on leadership advisory services and organizational effectiveness. He is the author of the book, “What Every Leader Needs: The Ten Universal and Indisputable Competencies of Leadership Effectiveness.” You can learn more about the book at For more information other leadership topics, visit the firm’s website at

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