Are You An Inspirational Leader?
February 24, 2020
"Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin."  Mother Theresa
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Mother Theresa

Recently I examined the “Nature of Growth” in my blog Do you grow where you’re planted? In it, I outlined four ways growth can happen and how we can lean into those different seasons of life.  But as I wrote that blog, I found the topic of explosive growth to be quote powerful and thus, I think it requires more exploration.  So in this article, I share with you my examination of inspirational leadership and how I believe anyone can inspire others to change the world!

Last summer I attended a four-week leadership course.  As a U.S. Army Civilian we attend certain leadership courses throughout our career.  For four weeks, myself and several other peers from across the U.S. Army, converged at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to learn how to be effective U.S. Army leaders. 

Part of our assignment during our course was to develop a Leader Development Plan. This plan asked “Who am I as a person, as a professional and as a person of influence?”  We were instructed to map out our current situation (state) and our desired future, keeping in mind this is a living plan that should guide us through our lives and careers as we continue to grow.  Here is my leader development plan:  

  • Who am I?  At the core, I am a Protector and Creator – rooted in my values of Faith, Trust, Honor and Compassion.  As a visionary leader, I use my role as a Wife, Mother, Veteran, Army Civilian and Non-Profit Founder to inspire others.  Through my children, my Army team and nonprofit, I plant seeds of hope and feel personally responsible to make the world a better place.  
  • Who do I want to be? I want to be an Inspirational Leader.   I define an Inspirational Leader as “an innovative and compassionate leader who empowers those around them to dream more, to be more and to make a positive difference in the world by persisting through adversity and aspiring to create a “forest of inspirational leaders”.   This definition is taken from the areas of leadership that I believe have the greatest impact on growing others around us.  We are all leaders.  We can all strive to become better leaders.  But if we hope to change the world, or at least our little corner of it, we must begin to see those around us as leaders who need a little fertilizer!  It’s our job as the gardeners to plant seeds of hope and grow those around us — that is the foundation of discipleship.  

3 Elements of Inspirational Leadership

A quick Google search on “Inspirational Leadership” will boast 91,200,000 search results (give or take!) So there is a lot of data to analyze on the subject.  I combined the attributes that I found directly relate to my specific roles and passions.  But this list is by no means exclusive.  Add to it as you wish!  

1. A leader must innovate.   Innovation is a common term today.  We hear it on the news, in government programs, across every discipline.  Innovation of technology, innovation for our people – new skills, new stuff, etc.  An inspirational leader must innovate in order to inspire.  What does that mean?  They must create new ideas that are original in thought and action.  This leads not only to their ability to make a difference in the world, but also to their integrity as a leader.  We’ve all had that one boss or coworker who inappropriately uses your ideas as their own.  That’s not OK.  So, a leader must be original.  

2. They must lead with clarity.  Too many times, leaders are not clear. Communication, plans, vision, strategy.  They don’t really make sense.  The team is left in a state of confusion.  The “meeting after the meeting” happens where synchronization really occurs but the team is left disconnected and confused.  Leaders must speak and direct with clarity.   And if they don’t, teams should hold them accountable.  

3. They should creatively solve problems.  Today, in the 21st century, we face new problems everyday.  Look at our military, nonprofits or social justice programs.  Pick any industry and you’ll quickly see that the problems we’re trying to solve are complex.  Leaders need to be creative.  They need to come at the problem from a different angle. That takes humility, patience and grace.  We don’t have all the answers but if we lower our barriers, we can possibly see that a new approach is needed.  

4. Persist.  Leaders must persist against all odds.  Endurance, resilience and fortitude are all words that leaders should have on their bathroom mirror or their desk at work.  It’s not about being the fastest.  If you want to inspire others around you, you must be consistent.  You must be dependable.  And you must persist through the hard times.  Many people quit before they finish the race, the goal or the objective.  They see the mountain ahead and think it’s too big, too hard or too far.  But inspirational leaders move forward.  They push head long into the wind.  That’s why we love a great movie!  We love the Rudy’s of the world, who overcome insurmountable odds!  Persistent leaders trudge through every element that Mother Nature can throw at them.  They have grit and that is what gets them through a long night.  

5. Endure, with focus.  Leaders must have a vision.  They must persist and pursue through their goals, but choose specific ones that will exponentially change the playing field.  There is no need nor desire to expend energy that does not get you to the goal.  Driving around in a circle at 100 mph has no value unless you’re racing in the Daytona 500!  But then, you know what the goal is.  It’s to finish the race.  If you’re just driving around, trying to finish the race, you should probably pull over and ask for directions!  Leaders should focus, put your head down, see the target and execute.  Executive leaders, like Michael Hyatt, developed very useful tools and books for deciding what task to pursue.  His book, Free to Focus, examines different techniques leaders could employ to focus on what really matters.  Check out those resources at  

6.  Above all, have compassion.  We talk about empathy, active listening, and all of those effective communication attributes in leadership classes.  But too often, leaders do not have compassion.  Compassion includes displaying empathy, listening deeply and always having graceful communication.  There have been times in my life where I’ve stood in front of a senior leader and received quite a tongue lashing.  It was through no fault of anything that I did or didn’t do.  It was simply because that leader was upset, overwhelming and frustrated. Sometimes they apologized, most times they didn’t.  So, never – ever underestimate the power of emotional intelligence and ALWAYS have compassion.  

How Do We Get There?  

So, now that we’ve discussed the six attributes of inspirational leadership, how do we get there?  Most days it’s a fear of failure, a lack of focus and a limited forte that causes us not to be the most influential leader.  We find ourselves struggling with various challenges that limit our being our best self.  

First, you have to do a bit of a self-assessment.  You know, that “dig inside, talk about your feelings, fears and regrets” stuff.  Yep, that’s it.  Find a close friend, confidant, mentor or bathroom mirror and walk through these three questions.

1. What am I afraid of? You must be willing to acknowledge your fear.  Be willing to see outside the box.  Don’t give up when it gets hard.  It will get hard.  And never listen to the negative voice inside your head.  It will always be there.  I’m afraid of failure.  There, I said it.  I’m afraid of looking like a total blob.  But now that I’ve said it, I can make an action plan for how to overcome it.  Now, you try it!  What scares you?  

2. Where do I focus my energy? Set goals and have an accountability partner.  Ensure every team that you join or lead has defined roles and responsibilities.  Create daily routines for financial, physical, mental and spiritual health. Apply active listening and critical thinking daily.  Learn new tasks and techniques for time or task management.  Be intentional about your time and energy! 

3. What skills am I missing?  If we want to become inspirational leaders, we must develop new leadership skills. It’s not if they are needed, but when because none of us are perfect.  These are not skills like computer programming, artificial intelligence and machine learning but moreso those soft skills like creative thinking, leading and managing change, using positive methods of influence and conflict management. These have the greatest impact on leading people.  

Final Note:  Above all else, ALWAYS deliver words in a graceful way.  At the end of the day, it does not matter how much money we make or what kind of house we live in.  It matters what kind of an impact we made in the lives of others.  As leaders we should never, ever hurt their hearts!  I’ll leave you with my favorite quote by Joan of Arc:  

“I am not afraid.  I was born to do this.”  

All my love,