7 Characteristics of Inspiring Leaders
We're searching for top company cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Apply Now »
Effective leaders inspire movements that exist only when people choose to move in the same direction. Without a leader, movements fragment and get nowhere. The leader's job is to inspire people to work together in the service of something greater than themselves.
Unfortunately, there are a great many bosses out there leading companies, and not enough leaders. The title of “boss” only signifies power over others. To be called a leader, your must inspire your team through your actions and words to believe in a common vision. The mark of a true leader is the ability to encourage the employee commitment and engagement that is the foundation for continued success. To start leading and stop bossing, emulating the habits of inspiring leaders.
1. They express unerring positivity.
Truly inspiring leaders can find the bright side of any issue. They know that doom and gloom accomplishes nothing, so they remain beacons of positivity in the face of challenges and failures. Of course, problems happen and troubleshooting is inevitable. But if you want to be a truly inspirational, show others the silver lining.
Related: 10 Habits of Ultra-Likable Leaders
2. They are grateful to their team.
Nothing drains commitment from a team like feeling their efforts go unnoticed. Leaders who do not show appreciation for their employees are putting their business at risk for higher turnover, lower output and malaise. Even small gestures of gratitude show people that they matter. Send birthday cards and give bonuses and accolades when they are earned. Even a quick “Thank you, this project couldn’t have happened without you” is enough to inspire and bolster your team.
3. They have a crystal clear vision for the future.
The greatest leaders of our time could articulate a vision so clear it seemed as though it had already come to pass. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech is a perfect example of this. Through words, actions and beliefs, inspiring leaders know what their preferred future looks like and can show others exactly how to get there. To truly inspire, know precisely what you are you striving to achieve.
4. They listen.
Hearing is not the same as listening. Inspirational leaders truly listen to what is said to them and respond appropriately, instead of letting it go in one ear and out the other. Practice an open door policy to receive your team’s feedback and encourage them to contribute to the common goal. This imbues the company with a shared sense of value because everyone participates and everyone is important.
5. They communicate impeccably.
If what a leader is communicating can’t be understood, forward movement is immediately arrested. Some leaders think that snappy memos or quick meetings will accomplish more. However, cutting corners around communication will only create snafus that cause time-sucking reiterations. Messages are misunderstood, feelings are hurt, projects turn out wrong, and frustrations mount. Truly inspiring leaders know that taking the right amount of time with each communication ensures that everyone is on board and moving forward.
6. They are trustworthy.
Customers and employees alike are much more likely to jump ship when a leader’s top priority is success, even at the cost of the team's well-being. Leaders inspire others to look up to them by telling the truth, being in integrity with what they promise and living honestly and earnestly. When employees take pride in their leadership and their organization, inspiration follows close behind.
7. They are passionate.
Enthusiasm for the mission of your organization is critical in being an inspirational leader. Work becomes a meaningless task when done for someone who is blasé about the whole thing. If you don’t know why the work you do matters, your employees won’t either. Keep your vision in the forefront of your mind. Your passion will remind your team often about the “why” of their work.
Related: 12 Habits of Exceptional Leaders