21 Ways To Be A Great Leader Who Can Also Inspire

by Matt Hearnden

Some of my “leadership” in the past hasn’t even come close to inspirational. It’s been rubbish. It’s been uninspired, if anything. So, being an inspirational leader is a goal of mine.

I did a talk at a university a few weeks ago, and someone told me afterward that it was “inspiring,” which made me very happy. I wanted that reaction. I got a buzz.

Being an inspirational leader is important to me, and that’s why I pay attention to “leaders” and how they behave.

Here's how to be an inspirational leader:

1. Be a role model

Lead how you want other people to lead. Act like the leader you know you could be instead of the leader you are.

2. Walk your talk

If you say you stand for something, stand for it. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.

3. Be decisive

There’s only one way to make a decision: do it. Remember, if you haven’t done anything, you haven’t truly decided.

4. Listen

What do people want from you? What do they need from you? Be quiet, nod politely and let them talk. It's a simple and surprisingly hard skill to master. But, you can practice this every single day -- no excuses.

5. Encourage

When someone has done a sh*tty job, explain to that person how he or she could improve. When people do good jobs, tell them. When they’ve done great jobs, tell them more boldly.

Side Note: If you're worried about giving feedback or constructive criticism and you shy away from it, are you a leader? You’d want to someone to give it to you, right?

A leader always wants to learn. If you don't like receiving constructive criticism, feedback or whatever else it can be called, just know you should only be worried when people stop offering it, as it usually comes from a place of love.

6. Push

If you stay in your comfort zone and know what will happen, when it will happen and how it will feel… what’s that like? Boring. Monotonous. Dull.

When you venture from you comfort zone, it’s exciting. Scary, yes, but exciting and exhilarating and feels like you're achieving something. So, what sounds more “comfortable” to you?

7. Support

Though this isn't the sexiest part of being a leader, it’s so important. Whether it’s someone you manage, someone you mentor or you're the captain of a sports team, be there for people. They love support and they need it. Just like you do.

8. Have ideas

You're creative. Yes, you. But, how often do you train your idea muscle? How often do you practice coming up with ideas? Not often, I bet.

Ideas are awesome ways to motivate and inspire. I’ve started practicing every single day, and guess what? I'm getting better.

9. Treat others how you’d want to be treated

Who’s the leader you've always wanted to be? How would that person lead you?

10. Treat others how they’d want to be treated

Be empathetic. You might want to be treated and lead a certain way, but it doesn’t mean others feel the same way.

11. Be adaptable

Not every situation is the same and not every person is the same. Not everyone wants to be lead in the same way.

Some people want direction, some want freedom and some want rules. Some want your support and others want you to get out of their way. Adapt.

12. Get out of people’s way

People are incredible. But, if you're leading them, part of your responsibility is to trust them to be incredible. I bet they’ll surprise you.

13. Ask questions

Be curious and ask questions constantly about situations and about people -- about everything, really. Doing so both helps you learn and empowers others.

14. Say “I don’t know”

You’re a leader, not an all-knowing being. If you don’t know, you don’t know. You don’t like it when people bullsh*t you, so why do it to others?

15. Be vulnerable

If you're upset, be upset. If you're angry, be angry. Show people who you are. That’s how I’ve inspired people in the past and how I want to continue to do so in the future.

I’m an open book and people know what I stand for. They also know my weaknesses. This makes you a leader because people are desperate to be vulnerable and show you who they are, but they don’t know how or are scared.

Show them how and show them it’s not scary.

16. Smile and laugh

Would you let someone lead you who didn’t smile or laugh? Have some fun.

If you can’t have fun, you're doing something wrong.

17. Know your purpose 

Why are you here? Why do you see yourself as a leader? Why should people follow you? Know the answers to these questions and your self-esteem, and thus, your confidence, will be rock solid.

18. Be knowledgeable

Knowledgeable means credible. It’s hard to be a leader, no matter how motivational and inspirational you are, if you lack credibility. Paint the full picture.

19. Be able to focus on the details and the big picture

Steve Jobs was able to move from one to the other. I’ve had managers and mentors who have been able to do the same.

You’ll probably have a natural tendency toward one more than the other. That’s okay, just learn from others -- from the people you lead, perhaps.

20. Create more leaders

Empower people. Let them make mistakes. Let go of their hands. Get out of their way.

Ultimately, I believe this is the purpose of a leader. It’s how I try to lead, at least. How many people do you know who are truly leading their own lives? Not many, I bet. Make a difference.

21. Be you

You’ll be happy, more effective and confident in your purpose. Intuitively, you'll know how to lead. You’ll trust yourself. You’ll be secure enough to get out of other people’s ways and allow them to be themselves.