Inspirational Leader Characteristics Plus How To Become One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 31 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The most apparent effect of inspirational leadership is the ability to motivate people into positive action. There are certain qualities about a person that enables them to have this kind of influence over other team members. Knowing what the key inspirational leader characteristics are may help you work on improving and becoming one yourself. In this article, we review what an inspirational leader is and how to become one.

Related: 23 essential tips for improving your leadership skills

Inspirational leader characteristics

Here are some inspirational leader characteristics:

They protect the interest of others

Part of what makes a leader inspiring is their authentic care for the welfare of their team. They have measures in place to ensure teams have what they need to meet their goals. They're also willing and ready to help out a member who needs additional support.

Example: Jake's assistant, Byron, has been late for the past two days. On the third day, Jake calls Byron into his office to express his concern that Byron has been late and looks tired. Byron tells Jake that he has had to take on a night job to afford the price increase in his rent. Jake plans to review Byron's performance to find out if he's eligible for a salary increase.

They have passion

Inspirational leaders are passionate. They're committed to a vision, which may encourage the rest of the team to be just as committed. They inspire this passion in others.

Example: When working towards a goal, Heather devises ways to get her team to actively engage with the vision in a fun way. For example, she installed a mini basketball hoop so that when someone meets their target, they can shoot a hoop to inform the department. Other team members then respond by cheering.

They are humble

Humility allows for self-awareness. Without pride, it's easier to evaluate your actions to see where there is room for improvement. An inspirational leader who is self-aware can maintain control. They're confident of their abilities, but don't believe that they know it all.

Example: During a strategy meeting with the rest of his department, Jake was sure about his chosen strategy because it was successful in the past. Kate, one of his team members, pointed out how this project differed from the others. Jake took a moment to reflect on what Kate said and opened the meeting to discuss other strategies.

They are accountable

Encouraging performance reviews from the rest of the team helps with accountability. An inspirational leader receives constructive criticism with grace. This is part of how they maintain an environment of trust.

Example: Jake recently made a decision that did not have the desired outcome for the department. Instead of dismissing it, he called a meeting to discuss what happened and apologised to the team for how it affected them.

They are encouraging

To be an inspirational leader, you need to know how to encourage people. Knowing the right things to say can help your teammates feel supported and cared for. To an inspirational leader, creating this kind of supportive environment is important.

Example: Lois has a lot of deadlines approaching, which she feels is affecting her mental health. She decides to talk to Heather, who is her manager, about it. Heather is understanding and reassigns some of the work given to Lois to someone else.

They take responsibility

An inspirational leader is always aware of their responsibility to their team members. Because of this, they first think about what they could have done better when something unexpected happens. This is how inspirational leaders always make others feel secure, even when they make mistakes.

Example: Mike arrived at the wrong address for his interview with Heather. He had got the address online from the company website. By the time Mike arrived at the real address, he was already twenty minutes late and felt panicked. Heather assures Mike that he was not at fault for using the address on the website and that the new address would be updated as soon as possible.

Related: 7 Leadership Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

What is an inspirational leader?

An inspirational leader is a person admired and respected by their team. What makes them different from traditional leaders is their unique ability to inspire their team. Inspirational leaders are generally well-liked by coworkers. They have a positive outlook and, regardless of their leadership styles, they're empathetic and always consider the needs of others.

Read more: 13 Leadership Styles and Their Characteristics

How to become an inspirational leader

Consider these methods for practising inspirational leadership:

1. Learn from others

To become an inspirational leader, you may need to learn from one. Seek out books and videos on the subject to understand the basics. If there is someone you consider an inspirational leader in your life, study their leadership style and consider asking them to be your mentor.

Example: Moira is about to start her new role as head of sales at a boutique talent agency in Manchester. She wants to learn how to be an inspirational leader, so she watches interviews of leaders she admires and writes down quotes they say that she finds inspiring.

2. Set an example

Sharing common guidelines and goals with the people you lead can inspire them to do so too. An inspirational leader is unlikely to misuse their position of power. Instead, they set an example for others to follow.

Example: Lucy volunteers to mentor a group of secondary school children every Thursday. In the first meeting, she established some ground rules, and one of the rules was for everyone to attend the meeting on time. Lucy makes sure she arrives on time by leaving her home an hour early, even though it takes only thirty minutes to commute to the school.

Related: Top 9 Leadership Skills to Develop

3. Be open to being a mentor

People who are new to leadership roles tend to look up to inspirational leaders for guidance. An inspirational leader takes the opportunity to be a mentor to others. It's one of the ways to further your impact.

Example: Curtis recently raised a large sum of money from investors for his startup company. Because of that, he has received requests from people who are working towards similar goals. Curtis understands that he cannot mentor them separately, but he is interested in providing support. He sets up groups and meets with each group for a period of time.

4. Be innovative

Inspirational leaders often have innovative ideas. Embracing creativity and understanding that sometimes the ideas may come from your team members is one way to foster innovation in your teams. As an inspirational leader, encourage your teams to share ideas.

Example: Jacqueline is concerned about the declining click-through rate for an online magazine. She meets with the digital team to discuss the issue. Kylie, a junior staff who just joined the company, has a suggestion, which Jacqueline encourages. It turns out that Kylie's suggestion to ask the viewers what they would like to see worked really well.

5. Show gratitude

Members of a team tend to feel good about their work if they're often treated with appreciation. An inspirational leader understands this. Therefore, they make sure to express gratitude effectively to inspire their team's efforts.

Example: Kylie impressed Jacqueline with how well Kylie's idea worked, so, on the last Friday of the month, Jacqueline treats the team to a catered lunch in celebration of Kylie.

Read more: Why Creativity Skills are Important and How to Develop Them

Benefits of inspirational leadership

Inspirational leadership has many benefits when practised. Some of them include:

  • It leads to results. Your teammates are more likely to thrive in a supportive and enabling environment. Inspirational leaders create such an environment through encouragement and by showing appreciation.

  • It increases loyalty. Team members are less likely to be poached by other companies in positive work environments. They may remain committed to you because they enjoy working with you.

  • It's fulfilling. Seeing the effect your inspiration has on other people can be satisfying. Some examples of such effects include goal-oriented employees and high staff retention.

  • It drives growth. When your teams believe in you, they're more willing to work towards achieving your vision. Inspirational leaders can encourage a sense of purpose that makes others work towards contributing to growth.


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