Commitment and engagement are highest in organizations led by inspirational leaders. The ability to inspire is the one single quality that subordinates would most value and like in their leader (Zenger & Folkman, 2014). Despite the power and relevance for practicing leaders, there remains little research into the actions defining inspirational leaders.  There has, however, been an analysis of the theoretical aspects of inspirational leadership that has identified the qualities and behaviors of inspirational leaders (Bonau, 2017).

There is wide agreement that being an inspiring leader can be learned and does not require innate personality characteristics. At the center of inspirational leadership theory stands a vision that empowers followers to act. Articulating an exciting and inspirational vision, which communicates the common goal in a meaningful and emotional way, is fundamental for being an inspirational leader. People who feel inspired about the future and its possibilities exceed the expectations of others and even their own sense of what they can achieve.  Inspirational leaders communicate a clear and uplifting vision, convince their followers to share this vision, and hold high expectations for follower actions. They connect with others on an emotional level, the vision they develop is clear, and their communication is effective. Inspirational leadership places special emphasis on visions, feelings, values, and intellectual stimulation.

People are inspired when a leader helps create a trusting climate where it is OK to make mistakes and learn from them.  Inspiring leaders promote high levels of collaboration and encourage innovative ideas. A shared identity between leaders and followers has been found to amplify how followers see and receive inspirational messages. Inspirational leaders invest time in developing subordinates to meet challenging goals, exceed the ordinary and achieve outstanding results. Overall, inspirational leaders are masters of change.


Bonau, S. (2017). “How to become an inspirational leader, and what to avoid,” Journal of Management Development, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 614-625.

Zenger, J. and Folkman, J. (2014), The inspiring leader: unlocking the secrets of how extraordinary leaders motivate, white paper, Zenger Folkman, Orem, UT.