Follow the leader


I was recently asked to sit on a panel of inspiring people. I wasn't first choice, to be fair. But it did get me thinking. In a world of influencers, what does it mean to be inspirational today?


The standard definition of being inspirational usually involves talking about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. These people - often from humble beginnings - go on to tackle difficult problems or challenge the status quo. Such folk are inspirational on a grand scale - think Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela. But people can also be inspirational in a quieter way. And it's this that I'm most interested in. We can't all be ordinary people doing extraordinary things, but we can be ordinary people approaching everyday challenges in different ways.

So what are the most important characteristics of this type of inspiration? After a lot of thought, I've come up with three key attributes:

1. Walk the walk

To inspire others, it's not enough to talk about what you're going to do. Sure, telling a good story is important. And having an engaging personality goes a long way to help. But without clear actions, you're not going to bring people along with you. Inspiring others means demonstrating that you can get things done, that you can make a real change. These things don't have to be earth shattering. You can inspire action in others by solving problems, no matter how small the challenge. Walking the walk is more difficult than talking the talk - but it's also more inspiring.

2. Forge your own path

Doing the same things in the same way may work in many situations. However, think about those people that inspire you and they're likely to challenge the status quo, ask difficult questions, influence outcomes, and put solutions into practice. It's hard to forge your own path, especially when work practices are firmly established and some cultures focus more on blame than innovation. It's also worth putting in the effort. If you're true to yourself, and set a great example, then you'll encourage others to act in the same way. You'll feel better, and so will they!

3. Share what you learn

Perhaps most important of all is being open to others. Inspirational people share what they know, and what they've learned, with those around them. They act as mentors and teachers. And they continue to learn. Their focus is on helping others to succeed, rather than personal gain.

We all need inspirational people in our lives, to keep us energised, to encourage us when we're struggling, and to celebrate successes with. And we can find those inspirational people close to home, as well as on the global stage. These three tips might help you identify your own inspiring person, or even help you inspire others.

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