A Little Inspiration Goes a Long Way


An uninspired leader cannot inspire other leaders. Before you can inspire others, you must be inspired yourself.

Patti and I recently enjoyed a great vacation at a beautiful resort in Cancun, Mexico. Everyday was wonderful, but one night in particular was a slice of heaven. After dinner we sat outside by the huge winding pool. It was lined by beautiful palm trees swaying in the breeze with the ocean in clear view less than a hundred yards away. From 8:30 PM to 10:00 PM, a brilliant flamenco guitar player amazed us as we sat and listened among an intimate sized crowd of people. It was like private concert for Patti, me and a few new friends!

I’ve listened to hundreds of guitar players in my lifetime, (from blazing rock to cool jazz) and many have been extraordinary, but this Latin gentleman was off the hook. He, along with his simple all digital rhythm section, did things musically that I didn’t know could be done. From the classical “Spanish Ballad” to the loved standard, “The Girl from Ipanema” to one of my favorites “Desafindo,” he was amazing. He flat out inspired me. I couldn’t wait to pick up my guitar and play. I will never be that good, not even close, but it made me want to be better.

Inspiration is powerful.  It moves people. That’s one of the reasons why I love the Olympics.  The athletes train so hard and their skill is flat out inspiring.  It causes people to want to be better, to do better, to reach farther, and do things not yet attempted. As a leader, your ability to inspire is a skill; therefore, you can learn and improve. It has nothing to do with whipping up hype or getting a crowd going. It may or not involve a crowd. Some of the most powerful inspiration comes in a one to one setting, or perhaps it’s a small group or a class. It might be in a board meeting or a retreat, but again, it’s often in ordinary situations like sitting in a Starbucks casting vision or telling someone you believe in them.

An uninspired leader cannot inspire other leaders. Before you can inspire others, you as the leader must be inspired yourself. This is usually a combination of self-leadership (self awareness, maturity and discipline) and being inspired by someone who offers leadership into your life.

So this brings us to a couple of critical questions. Are you inspired about what you are doing? Are you fired-up to do more, be more, reach farther, dig deeper, keep growing and take your church to the next level? I can’t emphasize how important your answers are to these questions.

There are four underpinning components to inspiration:

1.  Vision

It’s difficult to inspire without direction and motion. It might be impossible. Vision is a clear picture about a preferred future. Don’t mistake good relationships and a positive environment for inspiration. Nice congregations and cheerful leaders can often be happy doing the same things over and over again, but going nowhere.  The ultimate measurement of inspiration is change that results in growth. This is true both in change and growth for an individual and for the organization.

2.  Encouragement

John Maxwell has said that 51% of leadership is encouragement. I believe he is right. Without encouragement even the best can shrink back and land far short from their best. Encouragement is not fluff. It’s not flattery. When a leader encourages they are first and foremost sincere. They are specific and uplifting. They are purposeful. By purposeful you might think, “Aha, you have an agenda.” You are absolutely right! Of course leaders have an agenda. And my assumption about most leaders is that the agenda is for the good of the people! It’s about the best interest of the people, their walk with God and their personal development! That kind of encouragement is pleasing to God and people never get enough.

3.  Competence

World-class excellence inspires people, it just does. From an Olympic athlete to a Grammy award-winning singer, when you are good at what you do, people notice and aspire to do better. It’s no different for the local church. When you are a highly competent leader it helps others believe they can be good at what they do too. Simply put, you inspire them by the quality of your work. Let me be blunt by stating the opposite. If your church is beat up and tired looking, your ministries are sloppy, Sunday services are not well prepared, and the leaders are unorganized, that not only doesn’t inspire anyone, it drives them away. You don’t have to be the best in town, but you’ve got to be really good. If you don’t think you have the resources to do your best, then cut back on what you do. Lean out your ministries and focus! Do less so you can do what you do really well!

4.  Empowerment

The art of empowerment is the right mix of freedom and guidance. It’s not a “loosey-goosey” message that communicates “do whatever you want.” It’s part of strategic leadership development that helps people become all that God intends, for their good, and for the good of the organization that they are part of. Empowerment needs to be a win-win. When empowerment works right, the person and the organization are better because of it. Empowerment is about believing in people, trusting them with responsibility and training them to be great at what they do.

All leaders must inspire. There is no escaping this truth. The skill of inspiring others is not reserved only for the leaders who speak to large crowds. You must inspire those you lead. The cool thing this that you get to inspire others according to your own personal wiring and personality.

In my book Amplified Leadership, I talk more in-depth about this skill of inspiring others, but let me offer a brief look at five possible styles of inspiration. Which style is most like you?

5.  Relationship

Some leaders are so good with people they inspire simply through the way they connect, care for and engage with others. Relationships seem effortless to these leaders and people love being around them.

6.  Strategy

People truly dislike chaos, poor communication and goals that are unclear. When a leader consistently provides clear direction, keeps things organized and running smoothly and solves problems people want to follow! People are inspired when things work!

7.  Passion

These leaders burn bright and possess seemingly endless energy. They are so excited about what they are doing that their enthusiasm is contagious. These true “zealots” are so fired-up that people are inspired to follow!

8.  Competence

I’ve hinted at this one already in one of the four underpinning components. Candidly, even though this is so important it’s amazing how often church leaders are not competent in leadership skills. They may be Godly and faithful, but that doesn’t make them good at what they do. Competence itself inspires!

9.  Coaching

Those who inspire through coaching are among the top people developers. They bring out the best in those they lead and help each person become better than they could be on their own. Leaders who inspire through coaching are great encouragers and know how to lean into people’s strengths.

Perhaps you can think of one more style, but you can likely find yourself from within these five examples. Perhaps you are a combination of two of them. The point is to know who you are and how you inspire others!

So, how well do you inspire those you lead?

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