(This blog is an update on the first version published in 2014)

I have been working through an article from Forbes.com this summer that listed the top 10 qualities that make a great leader.  The last on the list is ‘The Ability to Inspire’.

I get a lot of calls from people looking at the role of the project manager as a potential career.  With no business experience, many are fooled into thinking that a career in project management is achievable.

I will always tell a young person that the key to project management is the role as a leader and the act of inspiring a team to success. Unfortunately, this is very difficult unless you have business experience and subject matter expertise.  You cannot lead and inspire without having been there before and appreciating what everyone is going through.

The ability to lead and inspire through your leadership is the key to leadership success – in project management and everywhere else.

So, what are we inspiring people to do?

Forbes offers up:

You are “inspiring your team to see the vision of the successes to come.”  This is tied to so many other qualities a great leader needs like: enthusiasm, vision, commitment, confidence.  We want to use our personality and expertise to inspire others to see ‘the’ vision’.  When they buy in, we get things done as a team.  We are inspired together.

You are “Inspiring your team to feel invested in the accomplishments of the company.”  This tells us to inspire our team to look back at our accomplishments as opposed to looking forward to the vision.  How often should we be celebrating the past, but we are already too busy and buried in the present day.  Inspiration can very well come from the past.

You are inspiring your team because “it is great for focusing on the future goals, but it is also important for the current issues.”  And here we are brought back from the future and then the past to the current.  As I have written many times in this blog, it doesn’t always happen like it should.  Sometimes the plan goes astray, and we need to regroup.  Inspiration to our team is vital in times of change and stress.

How do we inspire?  Susan M. Heathfield wrote an article entitled “Leadership Success Secrets” for About.com where she captures the action item clearly.  “Passion, purpose, listening and meaning help make a leader inspirational. The ability to communicate that passion, purpose and meaning to others helps establish the inspirational culture of your organization.”

Well said.  Passion, purpose, listening and meaning.

I challenge all of the leaders out there to list these four words and describe each in terms of their professional lives.  What is your passion?  Why are we all in this together or what is our purpose? Are you listening?  And where is the meaning to our work?

Answer these clearly and you can be the inspirational leader we are all hoping to work for.

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