7 Characteristics of a truly inspirational leader

Leadership skills are what separates the great from the average. There are many admirable bosses out there, but only a few leaders can infuse energy and passion into their actions and behavior. They have a clear vision, a mission and a commitment to integrity which guide them in all they do to make the world better.

Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Michael Jordan are all well-known altruistic role models that continue to inspire people across the globe. Dr. Alyn Waller, pastor of Enon Tabernacle Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shared that “when you’re inspirational, you can tell people and explain it to them, and it makes it make them want to go along with you.”

Data from Harvard Business School’s nearly 50,000 leaders revealed that “the ability to instill inspire creates the highest levels for employee engagement and commitment.” Companies experience 21% more profitability, 41% less absenteism, and 59% lower turnover.

These seven characteristics are powerful and can make you an inspirational leader.


Commitment to Values

Inspiring leaders are values-driven and lead from a deep sense for purpose and responsibility to make positive change. They are able to clearly define their values and won’t give in to pressure to get results. Although they may not be popular, and despite the hate they might receive, inspiring leaders know that being ethical isn’t always easy.

Inspirational leaders are not afraid to speak out against injustice, regardless of popular opinion. Because they know that employees are constantly watching, integrity is a virtue. Every action counts. They are true to their values and incorporate them into everything they do. Dr. Waller said that an inspirational leader is one who embodies the principles and values of the thing they are trying to lead.


Personal Development

Leaders must invest in their own development in order to grow. Liz Brown, founder and CEO of Sleeping Lucid stated that “inspirational leaders are strong in self-awareness and aware of their limits.” They also acknowledge their mistakes and seek feedback to improve their skills. They are aware that they are not the most intelligent person in the room, and they appreciate this because it motivates them to keep improving. They see every opportunity as a learning opportunity.


Radiate Authenticity

Leaders can connect with others by sharing their stories, struggles, and journeys. Recognizing their differences is what makes them different is what makes them special. Authenticity is the key to authenticity. They are the same person at work as they are at home, at school and with their friends. They don’t put on different masks, and they treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Ethan Taub, CEO of Loanry and Goalry said that “being a leader requires having the courage to be different and proud.” Courage is essential in a world that has only one box. However, people still need it, especially in today’s age. It is rare to be able help others understand the world and their place in it, but many do.


Skillful Communicators

Communication is not always verbal. There are many ways to communicate. Active listening, ignoring distractions, and eye contact are all ways to show others that you value them. Only body language communicates and strengthens trust, honesty and credibility. Patti Wood, body language expert and shared inspirational leaders, are skilled at matching and reflecting the emotions and nonverbal cues of others so they feel understood and valued.

They are able to communicate difficult feedback effectively in a way that doesn’t cause employees to lose interest. They take the time to understand why a member of their team is not meeting their goals. They then work with the employee on ways to support them and give them the tools they need to succeed.


Encourage Unity

Collaboration is key to a happy and healthy team. Leaders who inspire are able to identify the strengths and weaknesses in their team. They can then find ways to foster unity through peer-to–peer mentorship, team project or cross-training. Teams can’t succeed without unity. Liz Armbruester is senior vice president for global compliance at . She stated that “nothing is worse than a leader refusing to work with others.”

The success of their teams is what motivates inspirational leaders. Innovation and disruption can be achieved by creating an environment that allows people to come together and share their knowledge, experiences, and opinions. Collaboration is a way to help people learn from each other and push them beyond their comfort zones to accomplish great things. Employees gain confidence and are more willing to do more.


Accessible and Inclusional

They don’t use fear-based or emotional tactics to lead, but instead they create an environment where employees feel at ease talking to one another. A leader who is approachable and inclusive listens more than they talk, values diversity, accepts mistakes, rewards originality, and appreciates the uniqueness of others will be a person that is open to learning and sharing. Divergent working styles and personalities can lead to conflict and disconnection in a team. Inspiring leaders understand how important it is to treat everyone fairly, respectfully, feel safe and secure, and that they are treated with dignity. It is important to create a supportive and inclusive culture within your team.

A culture that is inclusive focuses on the team and not the individual. Anton Smith, director of outreach and engagement, said that his boss, Dr. Terrell Strayhorn (CEO of Do Good Work consulting), is very inclusive. Smith explained that he never uses “I, me or mine” as he’s always used “us, we and our”. Smith also shared that this motivates him to be a part of the company.


Accept Vulnerability and Risk

Leadership requires you to take risks. Rosa Parks and Henry Ford, along with Elon Musk, are just a few examples of leaders who took risks without expecting success. Thomas Jefferson famously stated, “With great risk comes great rewards.” Inspirational leaders learn from their mistakes and pivot their strategies to help others. They aren’t afraid to admit their mistakes and remind employees that they’re human. Their enthusiasm and drive to realize their vision shows that there is always a way, even if it takes some setbacks and new plans.

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