Inspirational Leadership

How One Little Word Sets Inspirational Leaders Apart from the Rest

“Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we

have to, but because we want to.”

-Simon Sinek

Inspirational leaders often share a common attribute. They know the seed of success can grow from one small but powerful word: Why?

People inspired by their leaders will follow not because they’re being told to by someone in authority—but because they want to out of sense of shared values and beliefs.

Before you can motivate others, you must know your own “why” behind your values, your beliefs. It’s not about “how” you do what you do – but “why.”  More precisely, as long as we know our “why”, the “how” and the “what” will take care of themselves.

As you read through the following post, explore the “why” behind what really inspires you. As you do, you’ll find that you’re more easily able to inspire and empower those you lead to greater levels of success and fulfillment.

Inspirational Leadership

Understanding Your “Why” So Others Can, Too

In a well-known Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last,” brings home the value of knowing the why for your actions. He believes that people aren’t inspired by what you do as a leader as much as why you do it, and that what you do is proof of what you believe.

Sinek believes that the most inspiring leaders and organizations in the world share a powerful commonality that is in opposition to everyone else. He says they all think, act, and communicate in the same way.

Why Are Some Leaders Inspirational – and Others Aren’t?

If you’ve ever wondered why some leaders have the ability to inspire while others do not, Sinek says the explanation is quite simple: few people or organizations know the “why” behind what they do. Sounds surprising, right? But it’s very true.

Being driven by a cause, a purpose, or a belief will bring the right people to you who share those same values, who believe what you believe. And, says Sinek, those folks will work for you “with blood, sweat, and tears.”

Stop and let that soak in for a moment. By getting clear on your purpose, your why, people will follow you with their full selves.

So, How Clear Are You on the “Why” Behind What You Do?

Sinek masterfully deepens this concept: “But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”

Contrast this with the 70% or so of us humans running around on the earth operating from the outside-in. We can try (and “try” is the operative word here!) to get our needs of security, belonging and self-esteem met through others and, consequently, frequently feel disappointed and frustrated because we will never succeed getting from others what only lies within us. Living from the outside-in is therefore a set-up to a dissatisfying life and way of operating in the world. Living from the inside-out is another story.

To live – and lead – from the inside-out, start by finding your why – your cause – that drives you forward. Getting very clear on what your values are- and ensuring they are indeed your values and not someone else’s – s one sure-fire way to begin understanding your “why.” Another is to listen to that quiet, steady voice inside you, the one that has never steered you wrong.

4 Easy Questions to Help You Discover Your Why

This Forbes article has four simple questions you can ask yourself to better understand your “why.” Here they are:

1) What inspires you – what makes you come alive?

2) What would you say are your natural talents and strengths?

3) In what areas do you add the most value?

4) What matters most to you? How will you measure your life?

As you get clearer on what you stand for, watch as your team begins filling up with people who believe in the similar things you do. Watch as, together with you, these people put their all into manifesting the same, expanded results your vision had in mind.

Transformational Leaders Inspire Top-Notch Performance

Knowing that all-important “why” can guide you as a leader to use your own special combination of skills and strengths to excite and inspire both individuals and teams toward success.

Transformational leaders create the space for their teams to think bigger, to come up with creative ways to navigate challenges and to take on bold new projects. Transformational leaders inspire excellence from people through empowerment – rather than from “command and control” tactics.

Think about it – which of these motivates you more: Being “told” what to do – or feeling empowered…inspired…to move to greater levels of success? I’m willing to bet you’d rather listen – maybe even relate to – someone’s “why” than listen to a leader drone on about mission statements and goals that have little meaning for you.

Understanding Your “Why” Isn’t Just About You…

Having a clear understanding of your “why” has an important trickle-down effect. As others relate to and are inspired by you, others in your organization will also be motivated to reach their full potential as well. A win-win!

Honestly contemplating your “why” might open up new pathways you weren’t even aware of previously. Consider journaling for a week or two and scribbling down “why” you do what you do every day. I’d love to hear your results!

Looking for strategies on how to become a more inspirational—and effective—leader? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.


When it comes to inspirational leadership, one trait really SHINES.

Openness…recognition…trust…humility…accountability. Most successful leaders embody these and other key traits. But there is one trait that shines above the rest. Can you guess it?


How centered are you as a leader?

The Harvard Business Review shared results of a study by Bain and Company on the characteSelf-awareness leadershipristics of inspirational leaders. They surveyed 2,000 people and came up with a list of over 30 key leadership traits that inspire employees. The results? Surprising, according to the article’s author.

The study found that one attribute in particular – centeredness – stood out. In fact, “Ranking in the top 10% in your peer group on just one attribute nearly doubles your chance of being seen as inspirational. However, there is one trait that our respondents indicated matters more than any other: centeredness.”

Bain concisely defines centeredness as “a state of greater mindfulness, achieved by engaging all parts of the mind to be fully present.” Leaders who are centered can listen effectively, successfully relate to others, stay present in any situation, and keep calm even in stressful circumstances. Survey respondents said this behavior represented a truly inspirational leader.

The value of centered leadership is far-reaching.

As far back as 2010, a McKinsey article called How Centered Leaders Achieve Extraordinary Results asserted, “Five capabilities are at the heart of centered leadership: finding meaning in work, converting emotions such as fear or stress into opportunity, leveraging connections and community, acting in the face of risk, and sustaining the energy that is the life force of change.”

The benefits and rewards are obvious. For a moment, let’s turn to you now – as a leader and as a human being. When you think about an average day, how centered would you say you are?

Are there certain “triggers” that sometimes knock you off balance? Practice awareness for at least several weeks to watch how you respond in different situations. Consider keeping notes in a journal or using whatever method works for you to track your behavior over time. This, in turn, will help you start thinking about how you might become more centered, in leadership and in life.

Successful leaders practice mindfulness. And you can too!

Try these three practical strategies I’ve outlined for you below. The best part about this is that when it comes to mindfulness, there are no gimmicks involved to get started – no special tools or gadgets…not another app to download…no expensive workbook to buy…and you’ve got nothing to lose. Well, except maybe some excess stress and strain you’ve been holding on to!

    1. Use your breath. Breath is a very effective way to begin a practice of mindfulness. And you don’t need anything special to get started – except a few minutes of your time. Don’t try to force or alter it; simply be aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Just observe. That’s all. Make a habit of doing this at least once each day and notice how it becomes easier over time to be more present in those moments of noticing your breath.
    2.  Give it your full attention. Multi-tasking drains us and leads to poor results. Whatever “it” is that you’re doing – from the most basic to more complex tasks, bring your full presence into it. What sounds simple actually takes some practice. Begin by listening to yourself and to others more astutely. How many times have you been in conversation with someone only to find your mind scattered off in various unrelated directions? Choose to quiet the inner chatter (the breath is a great way!) to give your very best to each moment.
    3. Make self-care a priority. You can’t give from an empty cup, so this one just makes common sense. However, too many of us are neglecting caring well for ourselves, which can lead to our bodies and minds not feeling in top form. Reframe how you think about self-care and have fun drumming up creative ways to infuse it into your daily activities. Here’s a great HBR article to get you started with 6 Ways to Weave Self-Care into Your Workday. A great takeaway? “Self-care flows from an intention to stay connected to oneself and one’s overall mission.”

Effective leadership starts with you.

In truth, effective leadership is never a “one size fits all” approach. Instead, it’s up to you to find the practices and strategies that are most aligned with your unique values and beliefs.

The leaders I work with and observe strongly benefit from practicing mindfulness and from developing the full set of skills necessary to become centered – in work and in life.

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Effective leadership is about art and science

Effective Leadership is a Mix of Art and Science

“The only thing that is constant is change.”


When it comes to leadership, truer words were never spoken. Effective leadership is about so much more than a set of skills we can memorize to get people on board with our ideas.

Being an Effective Leader is a Life-Long Pursuit

In my experience, it’s a life-long pursuit to enhance the value for the entire organization and to understand how the human brain is wired to handle the one given in every company: change.

In that light, here are two questions you as a leader might consider asking yourself:

  1. Am I effectively guiding my team to achieve all it’s capable of?
  2. How well do I influence change when necessary?

Part of being an effective leader is the ability to continually adapt to our ever-changing environment and to guide those we lead to do the same.

Enter: The Neuroscience of Leadership

In The Neuroscience of Leadership, authors Rock and Schwartz explain a key link between neuroscience and effectively leading organizational transformation. How on earth can imaging technologies like fMRI’s, PET’s, and QEEG’s aid your ability to effectively lead change?

As leaders, we may believe human behavior works in a certain way. In reality, science tells a different story and helps to shed light on why many change initiatives often fall short of expected outcomes.

The authors are quick to point out that none of this suggests that leadership is solely a science – they fully recognize there is a definite art and skill to effective leadership. Instead, they assert that those who grasp a bit of cognitive science can lead change most successfully.

Effective Leadership is a Mix of Art and Science

In essence, it’s that blend of “art” with “scienceEffective leadership is about art and science” that may offer the greatest opportunity for advancements at your organization. To be sure, many of the world’s most successful organizations have been doing this for years.

Once thought of as contrary to everyday leadership or even flat out incorrect, the authors highlight the following points relating to organizational change, summarized below. I strongly recommend you read through the entire article to deepen your understanding:

Five Interesting Conclusions on Leadership

1- Change is…difficult…challenging…demanding. However you want to describe it, organizational change can be uncomfortable. And there is never a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

2- Behaviorism may not be the best approach. According to the authors, “the carrot and the stick” approach based on traditional incentives and threats just doesn’t work.

3- Humanism? The benefits might be exaggerated. Though it can work at times, connection and persuasion may not be all that’s needed to sufficiently engage people enough to accept change.

4- Your power lies in your ability to focus. Professionals in different functions (i.e. finance versus marketing) “have physiological differences that prevent them from seeing the world the same way.”

5- Expectation molds reality. Akin to the placebo effect, our expectations really can influence our experiences. Think of the impact this has in leadership.

Neuroscience Can Help Us Think About Leadership Differently

When I’ve written about leadership before, I’ve suggested how studies and articles such as these clearly demonstrate how challenging it can be to change the ways of an entire organization.

In a sense, the ability to effectively lead truly is a union between skill and science. As David Rock explains in his Psychology Today article, neuroscience is helping us to fill gaps in our understanding of leadership, allowing us to examine the components of what leaders do.

Research, he says, has often been chockful of surprises that are making us rethink many things. For instance Rock suggests, “Rethinking our understanding of how we solve complex problems could save thousands of hours wasted in dead-end meetings.”

How can you take this knowledge and apply it in a way that enhances your leadership abilities?

Effective leadership solutionsHere are five takeaway tips for you today:  

  1. Stay current with emerging research. Effective leadership is a life-long pursuit to enhance value for the entire organization. Staying current with new breakthroughs in research can help you guide your organization most effectively through life’s one constant: change.
  2. Use neuroscience to your advantage. For successful organizational change, you may not need to understand the intricacies of it all. But it is crucial to understand that one person’s brain will be pre-wired to resist change, while another’s will be wired to accept it.
  3. Remember that expectation shapes reality. Our preconceptions have a significant impact on what we perceive to be true. Knowing the issues ahead of time can help you reshape those expectations so that change is more easily accepted.
  4. Keep checking in with yourself. Is your leadership helping your team to achieve all it’s capable of? Do you really understand how to effectively influence change when necessary? What might you rethink so you can improve outcomes?
  5. Practice guiding versus dictating. The human brain wants to meet the challenge of change by focusing on solutions rather than problems, coming to its own answers, and discovering its own insights. Gently guiding rather than boldly dictating can assist in effective problem-solving.

Looking for innovative viewpoints on how you can enhance your leadership abilities? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.

Self Awareness Leadership

Truly Effective Leadership Comes With Self-Awareness

Would you want to work for you? Self Awareness Leadership

Asking yourself this question can greatly improve your leadership skills. Why? Because it’s a first step toward greater self-awareness, which has been proven to be an essential trait of effective leaders.

Self awareness helps leaders to know their natural dispositions and preferences so they can improve upon or compensate for them as needed. It also improves the bottom line. A 2013 study by Korn/Ferry International discovered that “public companies with a higher rate of return (ROR) also employ professionals who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness.”

Wherever you are on the spectrum of self-awareness, consider taking a fresh look at how it can transport your leadership skills to new heights.

Self Awareness Leads To More Emotional IntelligenceEffective leadership

Being self-aware, according to Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, is “one of the core components of emotional intelligence.”

And strong emotional intelligence can give you the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others. You can then use that awareness to better guide your own behavior and your relationships with self and others — which makes you a leader that people want to follow.

World renowned researcher who coined the term “emotional intelligence,” Daniel Goleman, elaborates on this concept in a recent business article from The Telegraph. He explains, “If you think of the worst and best bosses you’ve ever had, it had nothing to do with their title or degree, but everything to do with the kind of person they were – for example, whether they were emotionally intelligent or not. People want to work for a person who is.”

If this all makes sense to you, then you’re ready to commit to gaining greater self awareness.

Try These Strategies to Improve Self-Awareness

Here are some easy ways to start down the path to heightened self awareness.

  1. Use one of the many tests available to better understand your behavior and mSelf Awareness Leadershipotives. Some good ones include:
  • Leadership Circle ProfileNot only tells you what is or is not contributing to a leader’s effectiveness, but also tells you “ why” this is so. It gives the leader causational insight into what is happening beneath the surface.
  • Myers Briggs – Reveals your “sweet spot” personality for working and communicating with others, which may or may not be the optimal approach in your work with others.
  • CliftonStrengths (formerly Strengthsfinder) – Shows you your “natural strengths,” which the test defines as your thinking style or the type of work you thrive on.
  1. Learn what triggers your behaviors. What particular drivers make you react a certain way—and why? What are your personal or professional blind spots? Identifying and understanding your triggers can help you achieve more productive interactions with others.
  2. Practice mindfulness. One of the key benefits of practicing mindfulness is a direct increase in self-awareness. The Harvard Business Review recently cited their work with a global IT company from Silicon Valley which showed that “even just five weeks of 10 minutes of daily mindfulness training enhanced the participating leaders’ self-awareness up to 35%.”
  3. Ask for feedback. This can sometimes be tough to hear, so choose someone you trust to share their view of your typical interactions. Be open to what they have to say – and be willing to implement changes if they are in alignment with your priorities and values.
  4. Be easy on yourself. Remember, you’re a work in progress! Look at your successes and what you’ve learned objectively, acknowledging what you did well – and what you might do differently next time. Learning from our mistakes is a key component of gaining self awareness.

Along with the tips above, there’s one more thing for self-aware leaders to practice…

Strong Leaders Combine Self-awareness leadershipSelf-Awareness With Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is simply being aware of how your behavior impacts those you lead and then making adjustments as needed. This proves to your team that you want to bring out their best, without being intimidating or negative.

Leaders with both self-awareness and self-regulation skills set a positive example for their team members to follow, building teams that are more motivated, productive, and willing to courageously grow in their own right.

As a leader, could you ask for anything more?

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Practice compassionate leadership

Listen Loudly, Speak Softly: How Being Compassionate Can Make You a More Effective Leader

“Strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive.”

Robert Kiyosaki

In many parts of the world, we’re all too familiar with phrases like “The nice guy always finishes last” or “Give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.” Many in the business world continue to associate compassionate leadership behavior with being too “touchy feely” or even unprofessional.

How true is that for you?

Whatever your answer, I invite you to take a closer look at the value of compassionate leadership.

Being Compassionate Leads to Success in Business and Leadership

Leadership compassionStudies have demonstrated that compassionate leadership strategies have positive results. My own experience has shown me the vital role compassion can play in enhancing one’s abilities as an effective leader.

The way to achieve measurable results is to take care of people: the relationships you cultivate always precede meaningful results.

Professor and author Adam Grant, who penned the best-selling Give and Take, discovered that in business, “givers,” a term he coined to represent those who care about others, are both overrepresented at the very bottom and at the very top of the success ladder.

You’re probably wondering “How can that be?!” – right? It all comes down to strategy.

While it is true that “givers” can be taken advantage of, those who learn strategies to prevent that from happening often experience very positive results – more so than those who implement no compassion at all. They rise to the top of the success ladder because people love working with and naturally gravitate to them. It’s a little like fire – a flame can burn you or keep you warm – it’s all in how you use it.

Compassion is a Leadership Strategy That Builds Trust

As you probably are well aware, establishing trust as a leader can achieve very effective results.Practice compassionate leadership

Think about it this way: which of the following scenarios do you think would build more trust?

Suppose that one of the newest members on your team who has shown promising ability doesn’t meet an important project deadline.

A – You express to her in no uncertain terms your dissatisfaction, without taking the time to more deeply understand what happened. You make it known that this isn’t something that can be tolerated and threaten to replace her if it happens again. It’s all about results, and it doesn’t matter how you achieve them.

B – You sit down and start a conversation with her to approach the situation in a way that seeks deeper understanding of what is going on. In doing so, you learn that she has recently experienced some significant personal issues in her life that you may even be able to relate to. Perhaps you share something about yourself to put her at ease and let her know you care. With this new understanding, you both come to a workable solution.

Displaying Compassion Can Help Make You a More Influential Leader

Scenario A simply perpetuates an attitude of harsh indifference; Scenario B opens up the opportunity to cultivate a trusting relationship where the person is not seen simply as a disposable “resource” – but as a valued and respected member of the team. And, more importantly, as a human being.

As I am sure you realize by now, displaying compassion helps others – even when the stakes are high and the situation is very stressful – to feel safe. That cultivates a sense of trust.

It’s that trust you build in your relationships that can help make you an influential leader, and this is just one of the many positive takeaways from practicing compassion in leadership.

Strategies to Enhance Your Abilities as a Compassionate Leader

Use these simple strategies to inject more compassion into your everyday leadership activities:

1- Practice the power of the present moment. Especially in the high-stress, fast-paced business world, it’s easy to let your mind run off in a million different directions. Staying present allows you to be a more effective listener and to focus on what matters in the moment.

2- Listen loudly, speak softly. For many of us, being brief can present a challenge. But compassionate leadership asks us to listen more than we speak, to come from a place of understanding, and to use our words as effectively as possible – especially because humans cannot retain more than a tidbit of information at one time.Effective leadership strategies

3- Be gentle with yourself. Without a deeper understanding of and a willingness to be kind to yourself, you will find it very difficult to show self-compassion to others. Self-compassion can also help boost your self-esteem as you come to see “mistakes” (by you and others) as opportunities for learning and new growth.

May this information inspire you to begin incorporating more compassion into your personal leadership style!

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