What are the traits of an inspiring leader?

Most of us have heard the famous quote ‘people leave managers, not companies’ and many of us can relate to having worked under poor leadership. Unfortunately, the statistics show that it’s more common that you might think. A study by Gallup, revealed that one in two people admitted to leaving a job to get away from a bad manager.

Moreover, 70% of the factors that contribute to your happiness at work are directly related to your manager.

Being a manager, a boss or a ‘leader’ comes with huge responsibilities and just because you’re a boss, it does not make you a leader. A leader must inspire others to work together for the same cause, guide them through the inevitable highs and lows and ensure they remain engaged with their vision.


So what are the traits that make a leader inspiring?


  1.  A positive attitude – There are ups and downs in business just as there are ups and downs in life, but an inspiring leader will find the silver lining in any situation. Positivity energises a situation and studies show that leaders who share positive emotions have teams with enhanced job satisfaction, greater engagement levels and improved performance.
  2. A clear vision – As George Harrison once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” In order to inspire, a leader must set out a clear vision statement including long term goals and how to reach them. This should be described in a way that makes sense to the team. If employees understand the direction they are going in, they will know where to focus their efforts and how to keep on track. A clear vision helps with staff motivation, engagement and productivity levels.
  3. Excellent communication skills – an inspiring leader knows their team and knows the most effective way to communicate with them. As technology grows, many leaders opt for the fastest, most convenient way of getting the message out there, perhaps an email or a quick memo. But speed isn’t everything. Without care and attention messages can get lost in translation and important points devalued. This can have a detrimental impact on productivity and motivation. Knowing the right method of communication and taking the right amount of time ensures everyone is on board.
  4. Open door approach – Communication cannot be one way. Employees need to be able to feedback to their leader. This is beneficial for a number of reasons: Firstly, employees can voice any concerns at the time they occur which is far more productive than letting things build up. This is particularly important in fast paced environments where information is key. An open-door approach also empowers employees to share their creative ideas. In a crisis this could be the difference between success and failure. Leaders who are open and transparent have closer working relationships with their teams and keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening.
  5. Trust in their team – No one likes to be micro managed and if the right person has been employed in the right role, leaders shouldn’t need to keep a watchful eye on their team. It’s all about finding the right balance and allowing your team to flourish while trusting them to be working to the wider goals of the operation. Trust cannot be developed over night, it requires time, character and effort, but once it is in place, both the team and their leader will reap the benefits.
  6. Self-awareness – This is the foundation of emotional intelligence, a skill that 90% of top performing leaders possess in abundance. Self-awareness is about knowing where your strengths and weaknesses lie and using this knowledge to boost those strengths or compensate for the weaknesses. A recent study by the Hay Group of 17,000 individuals worldwide, found that 19% of women executives exhibited self-awareness compared to 4% of their male counterparts. There’s certainly room for improvement all round.
  7. Passion – Passion is contagious and breeds inspiration. Having enthusiasm and passion is a trait that is attached to anyone who excels whether that be in business or in any aspect of life. It’s the passionate people that take the biggest risks, step up to the plate, and help make the biggest leaps forward. People want to follow a passionate leader; someone who cares not only about the cause, but also the other people who are involved in the effort.
  8. Celebrate success – With everyday targets and new challenges it can be easy for leaders to be constantly focused on looking forward without celebrating achievements made along the way. It’s important to acknowledge small successes so that the team knows they are making an impact. This reinforces the motivation that will carry the team through to the next achievement. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate celebration, it’s often the smallest things that are the most meaningful; perhaps a handwritten thank you note or recognition in a team meeting.

There’s no doubt it can be tough to lead a successful team and it’s also important as a leader to adopt a style that suits you and the culture of your organisation.


So, how can you ensure your leadership style is effective? In the words of 19th century American president, John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”