• dannydavis02

Motivational or Inspirational?

Updated: Oct 13, 2021


In my last blog post I wrote about being a transformational leader. One hallmark of transformational leadership is the idea of inspirational motivation (IM). The idea of IM is simple, transformational leaders have or develop the ability to inspire AND motivate their followers.


It seems these words inspiration and motivation are lumped together. However, I would assert that leaders often employ either inspiration OR motivation. There is a difference between these two characteristics that deserve exploration. especially for Christian leaders.


Inspiration is primarily concerned with "internalization." Put another way, motivation gives people a reason to take a certain action or accomplish a goal. Inspiration is about the follower coming to a place where they have an internal - heart felt - desire to take action or reach a goal.


The word inspiration comes from the Latin inspiratio that connotes the concept of "divine guidance." One who is inspired has inhaled God's guidance and that breath has given life to a calling, a cause, a life passion that fuels one's very existence. Or maybe we could employ the overused leadership word - purpose.


Motivational leadership, as Rob Holman asserts, is about, "[an] act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something.” Do you see the difference? Motivational leaders provide an external force for followers to take action or reach a goal. Inspirational leaders find and help the follower discover the internal forces that pulls them toward their purpose in life. Motivation helps you, the leader, get people involved in your vision or goal. Inspiration is about a leader helping followers find their own vision and goals for life.


The practical implications for transformational leaders are numerous but let's look at two:

  1. Relationship: to enable followers discover their purpose, vision, goals, etc., transformational leaders are intentional about building healthy relationships with followers.

  2. Coaching: counselors help us deal with our past but coaches focus on the future. (Both are needed in the healthy leaders life). Coaching, in my estimation, is a process of asking questions that allow for self-discovery - an act of helping a follower articulately exhale the purpose that was inhaled.

Transformational leaders must be motivators by offering compelling reasons to move forward with their vision. However, a leaders motivational strength are a result of discovering the inspirational forces driving their call, vision, passion and purpose.


If you want to build great leaders, then make helping others in discovering their inspiration a top priority. You'll be overjoyed to see them leave your organization and launch out to fulfill their vision and impact the world.


Dr. Davis

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