How to Inspire Others

Inspire: Archaic .

a. to infuse (breath, life, etc.) by breathing (usually fol. by into ).

b. to breathe into or upon.

Isn’t this a lovely (although archaic) definition of the word “inspire”? It truly provides us with a pathway for imagining what it means to be an inspirational leader. When we inspire, we breathe into ourselves in order to breathe upon others and give them life. It makes sense – when a leader is inspirational (i.e., gives others “life”), others want to follow. My guess is that most of you, if asked, would indicate that you want to inspire (breathe life into) others.

However, there is a difference between acting inspirational and being an inspiration. I would argue that in order for a leader to be an inspiration, they must breathe in inspiration; they need to be inspired. My advice is that to begin your journey of becoming an inspiring leader you must seek out inspiration wherever you can find it. You can then use the inspiration you’ve found to inspire others.

Where to look

Inspiration is personal and specific to each of us. Where one person will find inspiration, another may not. Some find it inside themselves, others find it in the external world; many of us find it in both places. Here are some places to look and some questions to ask yourself that may help you to find inspiration:

Look inside yourself:

  • What is my core purpose in life? How do I express it in my leadership?
  • What am I passionate about? Am I connecting my passion with the way I lead? How can I get better at it?
  • What is it, within me, that inspires me to take action? How will I follow and express that inspiration?

Look to the external world:

  • Who inspires me? What do I observe them doing that moves me? How might I move others in my own way?
  • What are the characteristics of the people or things things that inspire me? How might I convey more of those characteristics in my leadership?
  • What is it, in the external world, that inspires me to take action? How will I follow and express that inspiration?

What to do with it when you find it

The things you do to inspire others don’t have to be overwhelming or grand; in fact, they usually aren’t. They might be as seemingly insignificant as listening better to those around you, becoming more inclusive in your leadership or expressing your heartfelt gratitude for others’ work. These are the things that will matter, even if they seem small. Now infuse them into your actions and the lives of those around you. Practice daily with the help of a mentor, coach, or friend, and continuously look for inspiration. Mysteriously, inspiration is a wonderful self-fulfilling cycle; the more you breathe it in, the more you’ll exhale it out to others.

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

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