To inspire is to offer something valuable; to uplift others and motivate them to bring out the best in themselves and those around them.
To be inspirational is to lead by example and encourage others to feel that they too can make a difference in this world.
Unfortunately, people often use the terms “inspire” and “influence” interchangeably. Hell, I even did it in my last article where I talked about the influence 3 Ottawa-Based Career Influencers had on my life and career.
What does the dictionary have to say?
Influence – the means to affect or change how someone or something develops, behaves or thinks.
Inspire – the means to make someone feel that they want to do something and can do it.
Therefore the difference between influencing and inspiring is something intangible – a feeling.
This reminded me of the famous quote by Maya Angelou:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Consequently, inspiration is less about you and more about your audience and how they receive your message. It also means that the effects of inspiration will far outlive those of influence.
So, if you want to be a great leader, you must inspire rather than influence and here’s how you do it.
Inspire others by knowing your why
In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, How great leaders inspire action, he said “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
He talks about the concept of the golden circle. This circle encompasses the what, the how and the why people do what they do. He argues that most people lead from the outside in (What > How > Why), while great leaders lead from the inside out (Why > How > What).
You can’t lead others without first knowing why you do what you do. By leading with your why, you speak into the hearts and souls of your audience, fostering both trust and loyalty.
Leading with your why is how companies like Apple get their customers to wait in line for hours to be the first to buy their products. These customers aren’t buying Apple’s what, they are buying their why.
Inspire others by standing for what you believe in
In the TED Talk, Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, Luvvie Ajayi talks about striving to leave the world better than she found it. Her contribution is by being the domino – being the first to act, which, in turn, inspires others to act, too.
When it’s time to say hard things, Luvvie asks herself three questions to determine if something is worth saying:
- Did you mean it?
- Can you defend it?
- Did you say it with love?
If the answer to all three questions is yes, she says her piece and let’s the chips fall where they may.
Seems brave, doesn’t it?
Luvvie argues that those who stand up for what they believe in aren’t fearless. Speaking truth isn’t easy. But those who act as the domino, don’t do it because they want to, they do this because they feel they must. They inspire others to demand honesty, integrity and justice of themselves and those around them.
And yes, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Inspire others by being vulnerable
Brené Brown said that vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and struggle for worthiness, but it is also the birth place of joy, creativity, belonging and love. From a business perspective, it is also the birth place of innovation, creativity and change.
Inspirational people don’t numb their emotions. They feel it all – happiness, fear, shame, love and, yes even vulnerability.
Inspirational people show others that they are not perfect. They know that vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength.
Being vulnerable leads to profound connection and no leader can lead without first connecting with those who follow them.
Inspire others by sharing your inspirations and experiences with the world
Marie Forleo uses her platform, Marie TV, to bring inspiration to others. She provides free access to thousands of resources which help people to create a business and life they love.
Inspirational people, like Marie, know that they have gifts to give this world. She has mobilized large groups of people, across many different countries, not by issuing commands, but simply by offering guidance and support.
Great leaders don’t hoard knowledge; they share it, creating a collective awareness.
Always remember, great leadership – the kind that inspires – all begins with passion. Passion leads to purpose, which guides you to something bigger than yourself. It’s never about the position or title; it’s always about making a positive impact and leaving this world better than how you found it.