Employer Resources

A guide to motivational leadership 

There are many different types of leaders. Some leadership professionals focus solely on maximizing the output of their employees. However, inspiring leaders take it one step further. Rather than focusing solely on outcomes, inspirational leaders work to identify their employees’ strengths, foster the development of new skills and build opportunities for teamwork and collaboration. 

If you are a leader who is looking to motivate your employees to take their success to new heights, here is your guide for inspiring success in others. 

What inspiration looks like 

When an employee feels inspired at work, everything about their professional experience can change. Inspiration can look like: 

  • Motivation: Inspired employees don’t avoid tasks. They are motivated to complete them and to push themselves further.  
  • Excitement: Inspired employees are excited and passionate about their careers and the tasks they work on.  
  • Strong self-awareness: Inspired employees know their strengths and weaknesses and are always learning and striving to improve.  
  • Belonging: Inspired employees understand what they bring to their team and have a deep sense of pride and belonging.  

Understanding the feelings that someone has and exhibits when they are inspired is important. Good leaders work to foster these feelings and an overall environment of inspiration for their team. 

Traits and skills to develop 

In order to be an inspirational leader that motivates your team, there are certain traits and skills you need to develop. Some of these traits include: 

  • Mindfulness: You need to be able to stay calm and steady in times of stress. Practicing mindfulness can help you to show your team that you are someone they can depend on and a constant source of stability. 
  • Empathy: Being empathetic allows you to build deeper connections with your team members and make decisions that can help your team.  
  • Responsibility: An inspirational leader takes responsibility for the decisions they make and the actions of their team. Being someone who is responsible and reliable sets a good example for other leaders in your company and shows your team that you are someone they can rely on.  
  • Vision: Inspirational leaders have goals — they have a vision for where they want to be in the future. Having a vision can help you to motivate your team toward a common goal. 
  • Selflessness: You have to be willing to put yourself aside for the benefit of your team. The people you are leading need to know that you aren’t just looking out for yourself.  
  • Optimism: No one feels inspired by someone who only sees the bad side of things. Practicing optimism and positive thinking can have an amazing impact on your employees.  

Additionally, there are several skills that inspirational leaders need to have. These skills can be developed through professional development courses and certifications. Some of the skills that inspirational leaders have include:  

  • Learning design: One part of leadership is creating an environment where learning is prioritized. Learning design is the ability to enhance the learning experience so that your employees can get the most out of their training and professional development.  
  • Training and development metrics: Learn about the impact that employee learning and development can have on the employee evaluation process. 
  • Project management: Project management skills are necessary for being an effective and inspirational leader. These skills show your employees that you are trustworthy and dependable for large projects and important goals.  
  • Communication: Communication skills include speaking, writing and listening skills. Learning to speak well can help you to establish clear expectations for employees. Learning to listen well can help you to respond better to constructive criticism and employee concerns.  
  • Emotional Intelligence: the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. By developing emotional intelligence, leaders can improve their communication skills.  

Developing these traits and skills within yourself can help you to better motivate your team and lead them through stressful or difficult times. 

How great leaders can inspire action 

Great leaders inspire action in their employees by starting with themselves. If you want to inspire change in the way your team operates, you need to start by behaving differently and breaking from unhealthy patterns. 

If you are trying to get your team to think more creatively, then start planning group brainstorming sessions where you all voice your ideas. If you are trying to stop your team from burning out, stop working during lunch and staying too late in the evening.  

In short, an inspirational leader sets the right example for those that they are leading. Through the leader’s example, widespread changes can be made. 

Short-term goals 

If you are trying to build your capacity as a motivational leader, then it is important to make short-term goals that will set you on the path to better leadership. Your short-term, and even daily, goals can include:  

  • Giving positive feedback: You don’t want your only communication with your team to be for the purpose of criticism. Try to reach out to each team member periodically to give positive feedback and acknowledge their unique contributions.
  • Practicing time management: If you struggle with time management, this has most likely led to stress for your team. Practicing better time management can help your team to see you as a steady leader who can effectively lead.  
  • Learning to listen: While you are the person in power, that doesn’t mean that the people on your team don’t have valuable input. Take the time to encourage your employees to share creative ideas and solutions. Be sure to ask questions, maintain eye contact and practice other active listening skills.  
  • Taking criticism: Just like you give constructive criticism to your team members, they also probably have criticism that can help you to be a better leader. Let your team know that you are open to listening to constructive criticism from them or from other leaders.  

Choosing one of these short-term goals to focus on every week can greatly improve your leadership abilities and the inspirational effect you have on your team.  

Long-term goals 

The choices you make on a daily basis should be the result of you working towards your long-term goals. Some long-term goals for an inspiring leader include: 

  • Becoming more flexible: Great leaders are adaptable to change. Not everything is going to go exactly the way you planned, and it is important that your team knows that you are open and willing to change and roll with whatever comes your way. This can take a long time to practice, but if you work on your stress responses and your resiliency, you’ll see that you become more adaptable.  
  • Building stronger relationships: If your short-term goal is to develop your listening skills, then you should be able to reach a long-term goal of building stronger relationships with your team. By listening to their ideas and concerns, you can create a stronger team bond.  
  • Uncovering the strengths of those around you: One goal that many inspirational leaders have is to excel at uncovering the strengths of those around them. In order to reach this goal, you need to develop your observation skills, listening skills and creative thinking skills.  
  • Developing a growth mindset: A growth mindset happens when you believe that you are capable of growth and change. Developing a growth mindset requires you to learn from your mistakes, push yourself out of your comfort zone and identify your limiting beliefs.

These long-term goals can make you a leader who is better able to motivate those around them. 

General tips 

If you are trying to develop a motivational leadership style, there are a few things you can do to improve your skills. Some general tips for developing a motivational leadership style include: 

  • Watch how you react to stress: Your employees are watching how you react to stress and taking their cues from you.  
  • Leave your comfort zone behind: You’ll have to push beyond your comfort zone to become a great leader. Learn new skills and take on difficult challenges.   
  • Keep your promises: Staying consistent and dependable can help you to be a better leader. Keep appointments and keep your promises. 
  • Provide support: As a leader, you are there to support your staff as much as you can. Provide positive feedback, listen to concerns and create an open and honest environment.  

These actions can help improve the way you motivate your employees to complete tasks and reach goals. It is important to note that every team and every leader is different. For this reason, a great leader must be able to adapt and use different skills depending on the situation in front of them. 

Leadership styles 

Leaders of all types can benefit from learning how to inspire their teams. Beyond the motivational leadership style, there are several other leadership styles, including: 

  • Democratic leadership: Democratic leaders are great at including everyone in the decision-making process and facilitate high levels of group brainstorming and creative thinking.  
  • Autocratic leadership: Autocratic leaders do not look for input from others and are very strong decision-makers.  
  • Transactional leadership: Transactional leaders inspire their teams to complete tasks based on reward systems.  
  • Coach-style leadership: Coach-style leaders focus on fostering each individual team member’s strengths.  

Each of these styles relies on different strengths and leadership skills. However, understanding the concepts of motivation and inspiration can help any type of leader. 

Practicing leadership 

If you are interested in being hired into a leadership role, or you are trying to expand your skills for your current leadership role, then it is important that you practice leadership skills. Some ways to practice leadership include: 

  • Facilitate important discussions during group projects. 
  • Remaining calm during stressful situations. 
  • Providing support for team members as you all work towards team goals. 

Becoming a good leader is not something that happens overnight. But by practicing your motivational leadership skills and working towards your short-term and long-term goals, you can someday become a leader who inspires those around you.