Inspiration versus Motivation in Leadership

by Wayne Sharer

International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

July 15, 2018

Have you ever been challenged on the meaning of inspiration as compared or contrasted to motivation?

Many use the words interchangeably.

Here are the dictionary definitions from the Oxford Dictionary as related to leadership:

Motivation: Desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm.

Inspiration: A person or thing that inspires.

The question in leadership is, which of these two does a leader really do? This could also askes as to which of this two comes from within and which is external?

Does a Leader Really Provide Motivation?

If motivation is a desire, can someone other than the person themselves hold this desire?

I argue no, the desire must be held within. The reason is because the leader cannot be with every person they lead to constantly be the motivation or desire to succeed. The real motivation must be internal for those being led to stay motivated when the leaders is not present.

For most the leader is not physically present most of the time.

You can also refer to extreme cases of brutal dictators. What motivates a person to serve the dictator?

Often those being led have threats made to them. These threats typically include the loss of something dear to them. It can be family, friends, or money. Money is usually related to their ability to take care of their family.

You can see the individual being threatened is motivated by something internal – their love or caring for friends or family. They are motivated to protect the family by doing as the “evil dictator” demands. These people don’t get their motivation from the dictator, but from their hearts.

When you don’t truly hold an objective or goal as something important to your own being, your motivation is weakened, and your chances for success become less.

In American football, the players hold winning the Super Bowl as the ultimate achievement. The truly super teams want this more than anything and believe they will achieve the win. Their motivation is from within. It’s a core part of their existence.

Inspiration and Leadership

Since motivation comes from within, and typically this means it is not the leader that motivates, then what does the leader provide?

To answer this, imagine sitting at one of those conferences with so-called motivational speakers. When they talk about a topic you have a high interest in, you interest can peek through the roof while your part of the audience.

You get filled with excitement by their words and examples. They make heart race, and your thoughts go wild with what you might achieve.

But what happens when it’s all over? How do you feel the next day or the next week?

Typically, the endorphin rush you got during the presentation is gone and you can’t duplicate it on your own. The reason is your internal motivation was not strong enough.

The speaker provided on the spot inspiration to get thoughts rushing through your head. The speaker was the person or thing that inspired you to bring the thoughts to the forefront. Yet, without a sincere and internal motivator – a desire to do whatever was presented – the loss of the inspiration led you to take no action for yourself.

Therefore, at many of these conferences they push you so hard to buy their programs on the spot. At that moment, you have over-the-top inspiration to act. These speakers know that few will act a day or two later because they lack the internal motivation to do so. It’s also why I call them inspirational speakers, not motivational speakers. They do not motivate, they inspire.

Leaders provide inspiration by there words and actions. I covered how leaders inspire in a previous article. You won’t want to miss that. But it should be clear how 99.9% of the time leaders must be inspirational and they do not motivate. They inspire people to be motivated.

In leadership, inspiration is external and comes from the leaders. Motivation is internal and comes from within. The proper inspiration can boost motivation, but the motivation is something you must develop for yourself.

Latest Videos


Other Posts You May Like…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This