Any “manager” can motivate. A leader inspires.

Here’s the difference…

Motivate simply means to provide someone with a cause or a reason to act. As I said, any “manager” can do that. You can do it with a carrot at the end of a stick. You can also do it through threats of punishment or denial, or through fear, force and coercion.

To inspire means to fill someone with an animating, compelling feeling. You inspire by creating a deeply meaningful and emotional call to action. That’s what a genuine leader does.

And that’s why I keep putting “manager” in quotations. The “manager” is that person who functionally controls process, but lacks the ability to inspire people to go the extra mile, to rise above expectations––to be their best.

The “manager” is measured by meeting expectations. The leader is measured by exceeding them. That takes inspiration––motivation just won’t cut it!

It’s really not all that difficult to motivate people to meet expectations. All you need to do is ask a few of them what they want in exchange for doing what you expect. Then you can design a compensation and incentive structure triggered by meeting those expectations. This is an established process in many organizations, and they even hire managers to run that process.

“Managers” spend most of their time trying to come up with ways to motivate people to increase discretionary effort. Sounds kind of impersonal, doesn’t it? And in all but the most menial, boring and perfunctory jobs, it doesn’t work very well. 

Leaders inspire people to achieve their highest levels of production, creativity and performance. They inspire new ideas. They inspire people to transform––to learn, grow and develop––to break through barriers and crush the idea of impossible. 

Now doesn’t that sound a bit more––inspirational?

OK. Sounds nice, but how do you really do it?

Inspiring others is simple––not necessarily easy. We can break it down to a few simple strategies. Remember I said simple––not easy! Be ready to roll up your sleeves and…

#1 Look in the mirror! It starts with you. People are most inspired by leaders who are self-aware and who dedicated to self-improvement. 

#2 Lead by example. People follow examples much more enthusiastically than they do orders. Or to stay with our theme, people can be motivated by orders––they’re inspired by examples.

#3 Lead with Courage, Compassion and Wisdom. In my book The Sensei Leader, I talk about these leadership practices in detail. And that’s what they are––practices. Not just a set of nice words. Here it is as simply as I can express it:

Courage is facing your fears and doing it anyway––whatever “it” needs to be done. 

Compassion is your continual and sincere effort to understand the people you serve. 

Wisdom is knowledge and experience––tempered by awareness. (See #1)

Inspirational leaders are defined by their Courage, Compassion and Wisdom. And these shouldn’t be rare qualities. These are the essential practices of authentic leaders. 

#4 Cultivate and devote yourself to an inspirational vision and…

#5 Share. Enthusiastically. Leadership is sharing. A leader shares. Share your vision. Share power, authority and credit for success. And of course share the rewards.

Leadership is not a solo endeavor. It’s about inspiring people to work together to achieve great things. Your power and effectiveness as a leader grows in direct proportion to what you’re willing to share with others. 

I hope you agree. These strategies are simple––not easy. They require discipline and commitment. They require time, reflection and sometimes adaptation and evolution and continual personal transformation. 

But hey––nobody ever said being a leader would be easy. Right?

Nobody is ever inspired by someone doing what’s easy. Around here, we call that person the “manager.”

They’re inspired by the person who embraces the greatest challenges and obstacles, tackles the tough jobs and welcomes adversity as opportunity.

We call that person––the leader.

Jim Bouchard

Jim Bouchard

Jim Bouchard is an internationally recognized speaker, Leadership Activist, and founder of The SENSEI LEADER Movement™. He’s the author of 8 leadership books, and hosts Walking The Walk, a ... Web: Details