The Qualities of an Inspiring Leader

A couple of weeks ago someone asked me during a podcast interview “who has influenced you the most”.  Actually there are a few people, but there is one that stands out for me in particular, someone who has inspired me, challenged me, supported me and believed in me and for whom I have the utmost respect. Since that podcast, I’ve reflected a lot on his qualities and what I learnt from him – these are the ones that stand out the most for me.

Articulate the reason for doing things

Whether this was talking about the business vision or a change to the way of working, he made the effort to try and bring people with him and consistently talked about what was needed.  He was able to do this in a way that people understood that sometimes there was only so much he could share.  That didn’t seem to matter, it was the fact that he was making the effort to talk to them honestly in the first place that made it work. 

Build Relationships

He appeared to be an expert at building relationships, regardless of who he was speaking to and what level of the business they operated.  He was genuinely interested in those he spoke to and got to know what was important for them outside of work.  That made them feel like that mattered and that their opinions and ideas counted.

Safety Driven

A regular question of his was “what are your top three issues?”  Such a simple question which he would ask of anyone.  He believed that employees should be and needed to be safe at work, so if changes needed to be made to make sure that they were safe, he would do what he could to make that happen.  He believed that employees should be empowered to fix a problem but that it was the responsibility of the leaders to move any roadblocks. 

You can be You

When I first started working, I was told that if you are going to work in HR you had to be professional.  The idea that I would be “me” at work was never really something I thought about.  He taught me through his own actions that I could do both, be professional and still be me.

Accept that change needs to happen

He saw that for the business to continue to be successful, certain behaviours would need to change, including at a leadership level.  It was tough, there was some difficult feedback coming through from employees, but he made a very conscious decision to listen and do something about the feedback, something a few years prior he may not have done.


He knew that the right thing to do was to speak to the people that could help and might know the answers and it didn’t matter who they were.  It was a behaviour that he strongly advocated and he encouraged his managers to act in the same way.  This was quite a shift away from the old school mentality of being a leader needing to have all the answers.

Have a coach

He was well known and highly respected in the business, amongst his peers and those he reported to, for his knowledge, experience and for what he had achieved.  All well and good, but he still had a coach.  If you are senior in a business, having someone else to go to that is independent is a good thing and for him it was an opportunity to talk to someone privately, giving him the time, space and clarity to consider what next.  That time for a leader is invaluable.

If a business is going to be successful, leaders need to be inspiring, have a strong sense of purpose and communicate their vision by energising and motivating others to succeed and ultimately grow their leaders for the future.  

Inspiring Leaders is one of the 10 fundamentals of our Fitness Test – to find out more and how it could make a difference to your business, get in touch.

Sam Heighway