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There’s of course no how-to guide for inspirational leadership. Fortunately, there’s also no defined Profile of an inspirational leader.

For every charismatic, visionary, and communicative Richard Branson figurehead there’s a calculating, quiet, steely Steve Jobs or Tony Hsieh.

For every Sheryl Sandberg, writing books on women’s empowerment and shattering the glass ceiling, there’s a tech-centric, hoodie-wearing Mark Zuckerberg still coding while worth billions.

What these leaders have in common isn’t their style, personality, thinking preferences or behavioral tendencies. What they have in common are a tremendous self-awareness and ability to own their approach.

Employees, partners, and clients all get behind these leaders because they resolutely know how to unearth and communicate their passions. And, as great leaders, they know how to communicate that sense of passion and purpose to others.

The “Inspirational Leader” is a new twist on the term—inspiration is not rah-rah enthusiasm. It’s a radical approach that transforms others to do more and be better than they ever thought possible.

Inspiring Leaders are in tune with the needs of the business and know how to match those needs to the strengths of their people.

Inspirational leadership also has to start with the right internal compass—again, no matter what innate ways you go about your work and leading others, these qualities are critical:

  • Intention
    Inspiring leaders have a clearly defined purpose for their work. It is a higher motivation around the entirety of what they do—which critically involves others. Intention taps into distinct motivation, both within the leader and within his/her followers.
  • Appreciation
    Inspiring leaders appreciate. They know that their success is contingent upon the work and management of others. Uninspiring leaders come off to be self satisfied. They believe their success is a natural result of being at the top of the hierarchical work pyramid. Appreciating others in a manner that correlates with the unique characteristics that each person possesses means that a leader truly knows who people are and how to recognize their work.
  • Engagement
    Inspiring Leaders recognize that employees who understand where things are going, what their purpose is, and how they are expected to contribute will be engaged and committed to the cause. Engagement goes a step further when leaders continue this shared vision for work through acknowledging success—directing praise across the full spectrum of contributors.
  • Energy
    Inspiring leaders are energized by their purpose and encourage the same positive energy in their workforce. Energy is the manifestation of passion that is cultivated and directed toward a clear goal. Additionally, energy can create a positive and stimulating workplace which reaps clear benefits—to the tune of sales increases of 37% and productivity increases of 31%, as reported in Harvard Business Review.

Inspirational leadership is an ongoing process, but it starts by looking inward and then builds the capacity by turning outward and making others better.

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