We often use the terms ‘inspire’ and ‘motivate’ interchangeably. So, what is the difference? Here are some meanings I have found online:

  • Inspiration is defined as an act of influencing people mentally and emotionally to do something creative.
  • Motivation refers to a process of stimulating someone to act in a definite way to achieve a goal.

Inspiration pulls you towards something that stimulates your heart, mind, or spirit. ‘Inspire’ translates to ‘in spirit’. We are inspired by a person, an event, or a circumstance. Inspiration comes from within.

Motivation pushes you to accomplish a task, or work through a difficult situation, even when you would rather be doing anything else. The root of the word ‘Motivate’ is ‘motive’, which is an external force that causes us to take action. We are motivated by a result or outcome.

When we are filled with inspiration, we often don’t need external motivation to move forward. The feeling of purpose and meaning is enough to drive us forward.

Today, pay means more than just the financial amount team members receive in their bank accounts. People want flexibility, to be valued, and to be treated with respect. These are building blocks that make up the environment that will inspire team members to give their all. Motivation may have a place, but it can also be a form of manipulation. If your management style depends on incentives or fear of repercussion, this will not foster an inspiring environment.

As a leader, you want to inspire your team in good times and not-so-good times. You don’t want them to become dependent on conditions or a specific person to be able to do a good job. Create an environment that your people can be passionate in, and support them to motivate themselves.

Those that operate and live with purpose are inspired every day to give their all. This is why the most effective leaders are the most inspired leaders – and the most inspirational.

Here is how you can inspire (not motivate) your people, just like other top leaders:

  1. Care as much about your people as the business, and invest time in good communication, this includes listening.
  2. Value input from everyone on the team, and acknowledge their effort.
  3. Develop others and encourage them to continuous self-development.
  4. Seek to learn from others, not just teach them, and work alongside them in the process.
  5. Lead with both ‘head’ and ‘heart’. Have a clear vision, mission and value system, acting with integrity and inspiring trust.
  6. Push for excellence in the team and create stretch goals.

Perhaps, the next time you want to motivate your team, ask yourself how can you inspire them instead.

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