Three Ways to Become an Inspiring Leader

Why should you care about being an inspiring leader for your team? Isn’t it enough that your team gets the job done, well?

OK, you’re fairly sure they moan about you behind your back sometimes – when there’s a deadline to meet, a difficult project to complete, and you’re on their backs. But that’s normal, isn’t it? What manager isn’t used to the conversation stopping when they appear?

And yes, absence can be a problem at times when we’re really busy. I see some of my team looking stressed before they go off with a cold. Again, it’s normal, surely?

Also, people want to progress in their careers and that usually means moving to another company. So when my team members leave, yes it’s a pain having to replace them but that’s life.

As a manager, you just have to deal with these things.

What if I tell you that you don’t have to ‘just deal with these things’?

What if I tell you there’s a way to improve your peoples’ morale, motivation, engagement, well-being, and performance? And it won’t cost you anything but some time and effort?

Read on for three ways you can move from being a manager dealing with ‘these things that are normal’ to being an inspiring leader with a really cohesive, effective, and outperforming team of people who will rarely moan about you behind your back.

Know your people

Knowing your people – their strengths, values, career (and life) aspirations, and what matters to them – helps them to feel understood and valued. When people feel valued and understood, they’re likely to be loyal and motivated to do a great job for you.

When you know their strengths – those things they’re great at AND really enjoy – you can allocate work, projects, and responsibilities that enable them to use their strengths. You can improve collaboration within the team by encouraging people to work together and to support each other where they have complementary strengths. And you will see motivation and performance increase.

When you understand people’s career aspirations, you can enable them to develop so they can achieve their goals.

There are a lot of studies that report development, and a sense of progression is a really important thing to people in their careers – and that many people leave a job because this is lacking.

Knowing your people also helps you understand how much ‘pressure’ they can take – some people thrive on challenges and tight deadlines, others don’t – and to set achievable goals and stretch goals that are appropriate for them.

Build trust with your people

Trust is a powerful thing. It takes time to build and seconds to lose. It’s a big part of having a relationship with someone, and if someone doesn’t trust their leader it’s really damaging to the working relationship and environment.

There are different ways to build trust with your team, and it can mean different things to different people. Knowing your people as individuals will go a long way towards understanding what it means to each of your team and how you can build trust with them.

A few things that always have a positive impact, in my experience are:

  • Act with integrity. Say what you mean and do what you say.
  • Be vulnerable. Share things about yourself – your own strengths, aspirations and what matters to you. Tell them if you don’t have the answers they’re looking for, or don’t know how to do something.
  • Find common strengths and values; and show that you respect the different strengths and values within the team.
  • Let them decide how to work. Agree their goals with them, offer any support they need, and then let them achieve their goals in the way that works best for them. This may include how they work, when they work and where they work. You’ll see their strengths shine through and are likely to benefit from creativity and motivations.
  • Help them to work through problems and mistakes, encouraging them to learn.

Give your people a voice

Encourage your people to come up with ideas, share what irritates them, input to changes, solve problems, lead team meetings and give you feedback.

By creating a safe space for your people to be heard you’ll encourage open, trusting relationships and contribute to employee engagement.

You’ll benefit from fresh ideas and perspectives. You’ll create opportunities for people to use their strengths and develop their skills. And you’ll likely take some pressure off yourself too.

The key thing for you to do is to listen and to implement what you can, to explain when you can’t, and to show that you listened and value their input.

Putting it into practice

By putting these three things into practice, you’ll develop stronger relationships with your people. You’ll see an increase in engagement, well-being, and performance. You’ll see a reduction in conversations behind your back, in absence when things are tough, and in your people leaving your team.

Have you done these things? What results did you see?


Karen Felton
Karen Felton
Karen Felton – Transforming Leadership Careers. Karen spent her corporate career in HR in the Insurance sector. She loved leading her team to perform at their best by using their strengths, and she loved coaching leaders to develop their leadership capability, and to achieve their career goals. Through her work, Karen came to understand and appreciate the impact leaders have on the engagement, well-being, and performance of their people. She saw in action, the impact of person-centred leadership – how it improved morale, motivation, loyalty and strengthened the psychological contract. She also saw how, when leaders are in the right role and workplace for them, where they can use their own strengths and their work is aligned with their values, their own career and capability flourished. When leaders are able to be their best selves, it creates a ripple effect for their teams and for the organisation. When Karen left her corporate career in 2017 she went travelling overseas and took some time to reflect on what she wanted to do next. Exploring her own strengths, values, and what matters to her, she realised that enabling people to be their best selves in their careers would enable her to use her strengths and contribute to that ripple effect. Karen is now a leadership career mentor, specialising in enabling leaders to understand their own strengths, values and what matters to them so they can thrive in their career and create a powerful ripple effect for their people and organisations.

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  1. A super SOLID compass here Karen!

    The key here is sometimes the hardest: “Putting it into practice”.
    I believe most leaders understand the concepts but really struggle with applying them in real time. Habits/patterns of behavior if not changed will make no change for the good of the team.
    And it all starts with #1 = Know your people!
    We need more inspiring LEADERS.

    • Thank you, Carolyn! Yes I agree – knowing the theory is often easier than putting the knowledge into practice. In my HR role I found repetition of the key messages was essential in enabling leaders to apply their learning, and then helping them to reflect on what they had done and the benefits. There’s got to be a desire to do it, for sure.

  2. Your post Karen Felton reminds me of the SCARF Model . SCARF stabds for (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness).

    Your posts highlights the value of a leader knowing the needs of his employees as reflected in the SCARF Model. Building trust with employees to the extent to give them a voice so that they feel autonomous and relatared to what they do by having a voice