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To Motivate? Inspire? or Influence?  Leaders, which will it be!

This is me in 2014 running the NYM. I am yet to repeat the experience! But something may, or may not be brewing. This image always sparks my curiosity as no matter how many times I share my story, people seem inspired by it (I ran with an injury and the physio telling me I couldn't run).

What does that have to do with this blog, recently I was asked to design and deliver a workshop for leaders on the topic of Influence.  And that had me conjuring up an imaginary continuum starting with motivate, moving to inspire and ending with influence.  No doubt there are a few more words you could add to this imaginary continuum, but my curiosity was more so related to what leaders needed more or less of, and when.  

So let’s start with defining the three.

Most leaders agree that influence returns a desired action, whereas motivate or inspire is embedded in choice.  So, influence is about power, formal or informal and I believe motivate and inspire are about empowerment.

As leaders there are times when you need all of the above. 

Influence is especially important when you may not have authority or formal power, perhaps you’re working across business boundaries needing others to achieve a specific goal.  It may feel a little one sided, but used ethically reaps benefits for all.  

I found influence was particularly important when needing to collaborate across multiple divisions; or with external partners; or across a client portfolio.  The more senior your role, the more influence plays a part because you are no longer working with just your teams, but across multiple divisions and externally to achieve organisational objectives. 

Influence also plays a role when you're emerging as a leader. I recall my very early leadership days, where I was responsible for outcomes mostly through people reporting elsewhere. It was a conundrum I needed to get my head around quickly.

Then there are roles that rely predominantly on our ability to influence, for example People and Culture partners.  Hats off to those people because you're juggling many balls at once.

When it came to leading my team, I preferred to muscle up on my ability to motivate and inspire, because their choice was important to me and I wanted them to see in themselves what I could see.  Choice enables people to recognise they have agency in any given situation, and this ultimately builds confidence, resilience and commitment to the outcome.  Motivating and inspiring empowers others, encouraging a sense of autonomy and control.  So when your team feels they’ve contributed positively to performance, it sparks a greater sense of satisfaction and happiness.  And that's an all round feel good result.

What are some practical ways leaders can build their ability to influence, motivate and inspire others?

When it comes to influence, check that it’s ethical influence first and foremost. 

  • Relationships are key, so get to building them outside of your own team right now, don't wait.

  • Remember that old fashion saying, give before you get?  Well if you’re not giving right now (and for the right reasons), the chance of you getting in the future might be a little challenging, so practice giving to others.

When it comes to motivating and inspiring others, the key is empowerment.

  • Share your career stories that might be relevant to the person and situation, to inspire them to see what other choices are possible.

  • Adopt a coaching approach to help people find the answer within.

  • Let people know you believe in them, and share with them what it is you can see that they cant - be their mirror.

  • Encourage your people to refine their strengths, invest in their development.

We have a number of leadership programs for leaders such as our Ignite Program for Leaders and RiseUP program for emerging leaders where we delve deeper into Influencing and Inspiring others.

For more information reach out to or

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