Inspirational leadership
Inspirational leadership

Inspirational leadership

Posted on 16 April 2018

What does it take to become an inspirational leader? An excellent question, some people believe that leaders are born great, that maybe is true, but we believe that the qualities of inspirational leaders can be learnt and adapted to suit your own style.

From our own experience, listening to others and research we have come up with the 7 Key factors of Inspirational leaders

The 7 key factors of inspirational leadership 

Visionary - Create and share a compelling vision for the future

Authentic – Honest and truly believe in what they do and say

Passionate - Inspire others by their words and actions

Focused - Display a fierce, unwavering determination to succeed

Communicator -  Keep things simple and memorable

Enabler – helps others to fulfil their potential

Strategist – Plans where they want to get to (Objective) and how to get there (Strategy)

It is worth visualising inspirational leaders and thinking about the qualities they possess. e.g.

  • Nelson Mandela
  • Malcolm X
  • Martin Luther King
  • Anita  Roddick
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Richard Branson
  • Karen Brady
  • Clive Woodward

All very different, but all displaying in different degrees, the 7 qualities of inspirational leaders. Another common factor is that they all have an incredibly positive approach to life and business, they believe they can achieve great things and because they believe, plan and take action to make it happen they achieve those goals.

'Good leaders excel at devising strategy, you can have all the talent and ambition you need but without clear strategy understood by all, ambition will not be fulfilled, so strategy first, last, always!' Alistair Campbell (Strategist behind new labour)

As Margaret Thatcher said, “I know the what, don’t tell me the what. Tell me the how”

“In chess if you play without long-term goals your decisions will be purely reactive and you’ll be playing your opponent’s game, not your own.”  Gary Kasparov, Chess Grandmaster and world champion at the age of 21 

  • So set your objective
  • Devise a strategy for how to get there
  • Agree detailed tactics, (actions)

However even with a brilliant objective and strategy great leaders understand that without motivated people they will not succeed.

Understand what motivates your people 

Great leaders spend a lot if time ensuring they know what motivates their people and work hard at inspiring them to help them achieve their objectives.

But first it is really important to understand what motivates you. Ask yourself these questions;

What is really important to you?

What are you passionate about?

What makes you happy?

It may take some time to come up with a defining answer, but typically it may be family, success, pride in what you do, satisfaction in a job well done, money even, but whatever your motivator understand that everybody is driven and motivated by different things and the great and inspirational leaders have a clear understanding of that and use it to achieve their goals.

Lets explore what inspirational leaders say about the 7 key factors of inspirational leadership.

Visionary - Create and share a compelling vision for the future

‘I have a dream…’ Martin Luther King

Authentic - Truly believe in what they do and say

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
— Malcolm X

Passionate - Inspire others by their words and actions

Sir Alex Ferguson was famous for his hairdryer dressing room talks and kicking a boot at David Beckham

Focused - Display a fierce, unwavering determination to succeed

'Playing against a team with Ian Chappell as captain turns cricket match into gang' warfare’Mike Brearley

Communicator -  Keep things simple and memorable

'Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.' – Sir Winston Churchill

Enabler – helps others to fulfil their potential

‘Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so that they don't want to’ - Sir Richard Branson

 Strategist – Plans where they want to get to (Objective) and how to get there (Strategy)

'The Government must not think they can stop this agitation. It will go on…We are not here because we are law breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law makers' Emily Pankhurst .

Inspirational leaders keep things simple, they have the ability to focus on what is important and communicate it clearly to their people.

Former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King. He completely  turned Sainsbury's around by stamping three guiding principles throughout the business

  • Universal appeal
  • Fix the basics
  • Understand the customer

Ask yourself what your work objective are, are they easy to communicate and understand, do your people understand their purpose and how to achieve it?

This is incredibly important when leading teams through great periods of change.

  • Communicate your purpose
  • Tell team members why there is a need to change, creating urgency
  • explain the personal consequences of not changing
  • share the advantages of changing
  • involve them fully in the process
  • Create a compelling new future

So to conclude, the 7 key factors of inspirational leadership can be learnt and adapted to suit your own style. It is important to work hard on your weakest areas but just as importantly to do more of your strongest and always lead positively and with passion.

Remember leaders give to their people the gift of:

  • Time
  • Understanding
  • Forgiveness
  • Respect
  • Focus

'Remember your legacy is what you leave within people'  John Giesen

Leadership is all about understanding and inspiring people' Liam O'Connell

Suggested reading

Winners and how they succeed                Alistair Campbell

Good To Great                                              Jim Collins

The Tipping Point                                        Malcolm Gladwell

The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership   John C. Maxwell

Don’t Feed The Ducks                                Liam O’Connell

My Fire’s  Gone Out                                    Liam O’Connell

Influence Science and Practise                 Robert B. Cialdini     


O'connell Giesen


Liam O’Connell has worked with many organisations  in the private, public and charitable sectors including  numerous ‘Sunday Times’ Best Companies to work for. His clients have included Companies House, Unilever, Essex University and many Housing and other organisations. Liam is an internationally published author and believes that inspirational leadership is the single most important factor in creating amazing businesses.

John Giesen

John is the former Chief Executive of B3 Living, a top performing Housing Association with a high-profile reputation. John led B3 to become a Sunday Times Best Company, including 5 years consecutively in the top ten. Under John’s leadership B3 also rose to become number 4 in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index. John is also the chair of TPAS and a successful consultant.