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12 Behaviors You Can Practice to Make You a More Inspiring Leader

Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman and Scott Edinger conducted a four year study of over 200,000 responses describing 20,000 leaders to determine what makes an outstanding leader. The results pointed to the fact that the ability to “inspire and motivate to high performance” was the single most powerful predictor of being perceived as an extraordinary leader.

It was the best predictor of overall ratings of leadership effectiveness by direct reports, peers, and managers, it was the quality most valued by employees, and it was the factor most correlated with employee commitment and satisfaction. And it was found to be cross-generational.

Inspiration, they point out in The Inspiring Leader, is not sufficient in and of itself. “Its power comes when it is placed in combination with other leadership attributes.” It works as a catalyst. Throughout the book, they discuss a large number of steps you should consider to become a more inspiring leader, but here are a selection of twelve behaviors that you can apply now:
  1. Use emotions more frequently and be attuned to the emotions of those around you. For example, express heartfelt appreciation, get excited about organizational success. Show energy and enthusiasm.
  2. Reach out to people. Find more ways to interact with your subordinates. Practice management by walking around. Initiate conversations and be constructive.
  3. Set an aggressive target. With the involvement of your team members, set a target that will stretch the group.
  4. Create a vivid picture of the organization three years from now. Get each person to identify how this affects their job. Align systems and initiatives around the vision.
  5. Practice lavish communication. Take the time to be inclusive by being diligent in passing on information that you collect to your colleagues. Controlling information is not inspiring.
  6. Delegate tasks with the development of the other person in mind. Delegation can be elevated to an important discussion and can be wrapped with important messages that inspire and that generate positive motivation. “I see this project as a real opportunity to help you develop your skills in….”
  7. Make having a personal development plan a priority and review it at least twice a year. Create positive consequences for having a personal development plan in place and for pursuing it.
  8. Schedule regular coaching sessions with each subordinate. Make yourself available. Also, leaders who are strong in self-development are very frequently rated higher on their ability to coach and develop others.
  9. Involve more people in decision making on every important issue. Seeking the opinion of others communicates that what they are doing is important and it conveys respect and appreciation and strengthens the bond with the leader.
  10. Shower positive attention on new ideas. If you have a “no” approach to new ideas, you will unwittingly close down creativity and innovation. If you don’t know, ask those who work for you, they’ll know.
  11. Be the example. Demonstrate to your colleagues with your actions what is valued by the organization. You may also need to selectively model behaviors that need to be emphasized in the organization. A “do as I do” approach.
  12. Take the first step. Be the one to initiate changes, projects, or communication that is necessary for the organization. Nothing says leader like being the initiator.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:12 AM
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These are 12 powerful behaviors that if actively pursued could transform the face of our modern work place. It validates what I have long known to be true, great leaders inject humanity into their leadership. Thank you so much for sharing.

Just discovered your blog and was delighted to find your insights about leadership. I'll visit again soon.

Thoroughly appreciate this great list of behaviors for leaders.

Today is the day to integrate these behaviors into our daily lives and practice, practice, practice.

Jason, US Army Major

Thank you for your BLOG. It peaked my interest in learning more about this book. That being said, I would like to share my experience as a leader within the armed forces to further support this concept of inspirational leadership.

I have served in the military as both an officer and enlisted for 16 + years, and have spent the past 6 years in combat or preparing to return to combat. In my experience, leaders that possess the ability to motivate and inspire their Soldiers / subordinate leaders to achieve mission success are by far more effective. As an Army leader, we take leadership very serious and follow the leadership requirements model “BE, KNOW, and DO”. Be = Caring, Fit, Confident, Ethical, etc. Know = Workforce, Core Competencies, Yourself, etc. Do = Lead by Example, Develop Subordinates, Achieve Results, etc.

These are very similar to the 12 behaviors the authors discussed in their book. As with any organization, each Army leader demonstrates strength and weaknesses within these areas/behaviors, but in my opinion it is the leader that can utilize these behaviors to inspire and motivate their Soldiers will get the most out of their unit. I believe this because it is the strength of the workforce to work as a cohesive unit that gets results, not just the leader. The leader establishes vision, provides guidance, and creates an environment where an integrated / motivated workforce can achieve that vision to the highest standard. In my experience, a lot of leaders do not share this belief and feel that through stern or hierarchical leadership they can only get results. This works for some, but it is interesting that the authors derived their research from input of over 200K people to support their thesis.

I would like to end my comments by saying that I am truly honored to have been given the opportunity to lead and serve next to the most dedicated and hardworking group of citizens I have ever met. In doing so I have very strong personal convictions about leadership and how people and organizations are treated by the ones they trust to lead them.

Major Jason R. Conde
Student, Command and General Staff College

There is difference between "rating" leadership and actually measuring the value and outcome of leadership. Authors Daniels and Daniels get at the ability to truly measure leadership in "The Measure of a Leader", a highly recommended read. I just completed a 9-week leadership development cohort with a manufacturing client for which participants and my corporate sponsor both gave high ratings for content, facilitation, activities, material, etc. I could rate the leaders involved based on their participation, retention and application of materials as well. But the real measure of leadership "gained" is not in the knowledge gained or qualities learned, but in the application apparent in the goals they achieved as a result. Even more importantly, their leadership can now be measured accurately by the production and performance of their team members in pursuit of the leaders' goals.

Concepts and qualities are nice starting points, but the measure of a leader is in the discretionary behavior of "followers" in pursuit of the leader's mission.

I was searching for some leadership skills to handle my team, I have visited so many articles to improve and learn leadership skills, but these article is very very helpful for me. This article explain very well how to handle our team and how to become a successful leader.

Its a small differentiation but one that can make a big difference.

Great leaders do not inspire people, they are commited to creating an environment where people find their inspiration.

When we move forward with the belief that a leader has the responsibility to inspire we risk believing that inspiration is an externally determined factor. Great organizations and great leaders know that inspiration is both intrinsic and also influenced by external factors, however intrinsic is more personal and long lasting.

The 12 tips are excellent. They speak to the ways a leader can help facilitate an environment where people are connecting their personal inspiration to the goals of the team. This ability to interact with others in an authentic and meaningful manner allows meaning and inspiration to emerge.

Great article. keep up the good work.

What I like about this list is that it's practical and covers many of the diverse skills need to be a strong leader. Thanks for the recommendation.

To US Army Major Jason Conde -

First, thank you for your service! We wouldn't have the opportunities we have today (such as opining on the finer points of leadership) if it weren't for the men and women of our armed forces. Your personal commitment is greatly appreciated.

Second, thank you for sharing your experiences and training as a leader in the armed forces, where there is no other equivalent testing of the value of leadership. I know that I relate best to direct and simple forms of learning, and Be, Know and Do, fills that need. I intend to share it with the Gen Y and X individuals that I support.

Your twelve points really show exactly what a business leader needs to strive for in a simple easy to follow plan. All of these points are very simplified and effective. If all business leaders followed all of these steps the modern business world would be a much more efficient and pleasant environment. Some of these steps such as taking the first step and reaching out may at first seem like simple tasks, but they can be one of the biggest challenges a new manager can face. Being the example, showing emotion, and involving people in decision making can all be even more difficult tasks, but they are just as essential. You truly have pin pointed the exact keys to leadership. These points not only apply to a work setting but can teach us about how to become more successful in many more aspects in life. Thank you for your insight. www.bolmsted1.edublogs.com

Excellent advice, but practicing leadership behaviors from a list reminds me of the old joke: "Sincerity is the important thing. Once you can fake that, you've got it made."

When these behaviors reflect the leader's and the organization's true values, the leader wins more than praise. He or she wins candor from the team. And that's when the talent really blossoms.

I like your tip #6. So many managers could not care less about the development of their employees. Delegating with the employee's development in mind is not only good karma but is likely to improve productivity and work ethic.

Thought these were some great quick tips on how to connect better with people that you lead. Connection and interaction is critical and often missed.

Thanks for the insights

and also to
Major Jason R. Conde
Thank you sir for your service and for your insights into leadership

Mark Oberschmidt

Appealing to emotions works wonders to a team member. It promotes loyalty and sincerity. This is where I am most sensitive at and practice most often.

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