Do You Motivate or Inspire?

I was working at the PMI Region 3 meetings in Boston this week when Ron MacDonald, PMI Chapter Partner, got me into a discussion about the difference between motivation and inspiration.

Interesting.  What is the role of a leader?  To inspire or to motivate?  I guess the easy answer is… both.  But they really are very different.

My immediate reaction was that one is a push and the other a pull.  We push people along with motivation and pull people along with inspiration.

Motivation seems to require some kind of incentive. We use money, gifts, time and other rewards to encourage people to do something – to change their behaviour. With inspiration we seek to change people’s behaviour without incentives. We inspire through words, deeds, acts and behaviours.

With motivation we are trying to change someone’s behavior, typically to the benefit of ourselves. With inspiration we seek to help others, serve them and better them.

Lance Secretan is the author of 22 books about leadership, inspiration, corporate culture and entrepreneurship. He suggests that “…inspiration is an act of love for another person, service as a gift – something we give to others without a need for anything of our own.”  

Check out his web site – In it, he says “Modern leadership theory is founded on the theories of motivation. But missing from our approach to leadership is inspiration—and there is a big difference between the two. People are yearning to be inspired and to work for inspiring leaders who build inspiring organizations based on meaning and fulfilment.”

If we think of the great leaders in our lives, we think of those who inspired us, not motivated us.

Do YOU motivate or inspire?


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