How to Be an Inspirational Leader

Motivate your staff to accomplish great things and pursue astonishing outcomes

Have you ever heard someone described as a born leader? This is a misnomer. While some characteristics of great leadership may come naturally to some people, the reality is that all leaders need to hone their skills if they expect their charges to follow them.

Although leadership excellence is required for both day-to-day activities, as well as special projects, let’s consider the skills a leader must exhibit for their employees to follow them on a particular project. Leaders who follow these steps will motivate their staff to accomplish more and to do it better. Sometimes staff will even rise above what seems possible to accomplish what seems impossible.

Cast a Compelling Vision: Everything starts with vision. Poor leaders have no vision, good leaders have a good vision, and exceptional leaders paint a compelling vision for their staff to follow.

A key element of the vision must be that it contains a shared objective, a mutually-beneficial goal for everyone. A vision that only benefits the leader is a vision where traction will be hard to realize. Regardless, it helps if the vision can be condensed into a concise soundbite that is both memorable and exciting.

Communicate Value: To get maximum buy-in of the vision, wise leaders take time to share the why. Employees are much more apt to follow a vision if they understand why they’re doing it. If they know the goal and the value of obtaining that goal, they’re much more likely to fall into step behind the leader who shared why the vision matters.

Remind Them of the Vision: Having a team meeting to share your vision one time isn’t enough. Vision leaks. Over time your staff will forget the vision or will allow it to morph into something beyond what you intended. They need reminders along the way.

Once a month is about as long as you dare go without selling them on the vision all over again. Without reminding them, your staff is apt to lose interest, veer off in a different direction, or even inadvertently take actions counterproductive to the vision.

Pick the Right People: With the vision and its value communicated, you need to pick the right people to be on the project team. While there may be value in stretching proven staff to push beyond their past performance, in general you want to tap people for tasks they’re equipped and able to handle. Putting the wrong person in the wrong position for a job they’re not ready to complete can put the whole project in jeopardy. And the more people who are misaligned with their role, the greater the likelihood of failure.

Provide Support: With the right team in place, a smart leader knows to offer support. This means being available to answer questions. It means providing them with the tools they need to do their assignment. If they need extra training to do their job well, provide it. No matter how good a team is, without the backing they need, they will falter and likely fail.

Reward Unity: Consider the image of a rowing team. All members need to pull in the same direction and be in sync with one another. The same thing applies to your project and its team. The key word is unity. Everyone on your team needs to be a team player. That’s why they call it a team. There is no room for rogue behavior or prima donnas. Therefore, you must reward harmony and stomp out discord.

Celebrate Milestones: The vision you cast shows where you want to end up, but along the way your project has milestones. Celebrate the accomplishment of each one. Take a small break from the effort to acknowledge the team’s progress. And even more granular than milestones, take time to recognize the small wins along the way. This will motivate your team to push forward when they face discouragement.

Allow for Mistakes: Every leader hopes for a staff that never falters. Although ideal, this is also impractical. Your employees are people and people sometimes make mistakes. Allow for these errors to occur, as long as they’re well-intentioned and not malicious. A staff preoccupied with avoiding mistakes is a staff that’s risk-averse and will play it safe. For your project to be successful, you need a staff who is willing to push themselves and pursue bold directions, but they won’t do that if they fear punishment should things go awry.

Maintain Focus: Along the way it’s important to keep focused on the vision and the goal that vision is moving you toward. Avoid distractions. Reject mission creep. And don’t take on another major project when in the middle of the first one.

Whether it is handling the day-to-day activities with excellence or pursuing a grand project that will take months, following these nine tips will help you become a better leader, which will empower your staff to accomplish amazing things.

When you do so, you become a leader worth following, and your staff becomes the envy of everyone who sees the results. But it all starts with you.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at or 800-901-7706.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.