How to Become an Inspirational Leader

by Michelle Rushton

You’re already widely respected and esteemed. Now, how can you become an inspirational leader whom others are compelled to follow?

Here is one important part of the puzzle.

Imagine you are a member of a tribe. You live on the grassy plains of a distant land, with no modern technology and with little to no contact with other tribes. One day over the horizon you see someone approaching. As their silhouette gets larger though you realise from their gait that they are a stranger.

A stranger approaches…

Here are the answers we usually get (and they are backed up by the research in perception and impression formation).

The first question is: Are they friend or foe? Or expressed a different way, What are this person’s intentions toward me?

The second question is: Do they have the ability to carry out those intentions? Do they have the strength, competence and commitment to follow through?

What we know from the science of influence is that employees are asking these questions about their senior leaders all the time, even if they know them well. And they are answering these questions for themselves based on whatever (little) information or impression that leader has given them.

If they decide that you have flawlessly positive intentions towards them AND the ability to carry out those intentions, you will be perceived as someone they are compelled to follow, an inspirational leader.

So, how do you think people might be answering those questions about you?

And how explicitly are you communicating your intentions towards others and then delivering on that intent?

Michelle Rushton is co-founder and director of learning and development consultancy People of Influence, which specialises in leadership and team development. With over 15 years of experience with tens of thousands of people, Michelle has designed and delivered award-winning behaviour change and leadership development programs for companies like Microsoft, Australia Post and American Express.