top of page

The Characteristics of Inspirational Leaders and How To Develop Your Leadership Skills

Leadership development is a crucial part of defining your employee (re)engagement strategy. But what characterises an ‘inspirational leader’?

Below is a list of common characteristics of inspirational leaders, along with tips to help you develop your inspirational leadership skills.

Inspirational leaders;

Model Open Communication

Leaders need to be open, available, clear and honest in all communications. They benefit their team by modelling authenticity, vulnerability and promoting psychological safety. They listen attentively & with genuine curiosity, asking appropriate questions and taking the time to understand others' thoughts and feelings. They understand positive conflict can generate creativity and they encourage debate and discussion.

Develop by asking your team for ideas to help improve the way you work and practising active & curious listening when receiving feedback or suggestions.

Encourage & Support Others

They make a point of including everyone and inviting active participation, showing awareness of who has and hasn’t contributed, had their voice heard or dominated a discussion.

Develop by paying attention to who contributes to meetings, who doesn't & who dominates discussions, inviting thoughts and ideas from quieter team members. It helps to provide a clear meeting agenda and inviting people to come with thoughts, questions etc. or giving 3min to jot down thoughts or questions at the start of the meeting.

Contribute to a Healthy Workplace Culture

Whether this means tackling health and safety issues, or promoting mental health and wellbeing, an inspirational leader ensures that their workplace supports wellbeing and minimises harm. This includes dealing swiftly and firmly with negative conflict, gossip, inappropriate language, and undesirable behaviour. Their team understands expectations and how this approach contributes to a more positive and psychologically healthy workplace.

Develop by supporting and promoting company values, ensuring you are not participating in any behaviours that contribute to an unhealthy workplace (including 'banter' and teasing) and begin calling other people out on it.

Offer & Invite Feedback

Giving & receiving feedback is a fantastic way of improving the skills, knowledge & behaviours of both leaders and employees. Inspirational leaders work hard to create an atmosphere of safety, trust and openness, in which they give and receive honest feedback. They show respect to the other person by being direct and avoid using the 'crap sandwich' technique of praise-criticism-praise which just dilutes the message and leaves people frustrated. When receiving feedback, they listen intently and reflect back what was said, to clarify and understand the intent. They receive criticism from a place of learning & self-development, rather than emotional defensiveness, and thank the person for their honesty.

Develop by working with a coach to improve mindset and openness to criticism, plan regular opportunities in meetings to share feedback and consider conducting a 360 degree leadership performance review to discuss in coaching.

Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.

Prioritise Recognition

It is well known that praise, recognition and acknowledgment of effort as well as performance all contribute to feelings of value & purpose at work; increasing engagement & motivation. Inspirational leaders show that they value it too by modelling giving and receiving recognition in front of others. They make the effort to ensure they give praise mindfully and specifically, customising recognition to each employees work and personal needs, to avoid it becoming routine and meaningless.

Develop by making an effort to understand how different people prefer to receive praise or feedback (a quiet thank you vs. a public display) and ensure you are specific in your recognition. Are you praising mastery of a new skill or consistent performance or honest feedback? People like to feel seen, heard and valued.

Manage Their Emotions

Emotional control is an essential leadership skill and employees often look to their leaders and managers for examples of how to behave, especially during times of change and stress. Inspirational leaders are self-aware and understand how to manage and control their emotions during times of pressure or conflict, ensuring they remain calm, level-headed and behave appropriately for the situation.

Develop by practising mindfulness meditation to increase self-awareness and acceptance of emotions. Build emotional literacy by working with a qualified, accredited coach to understand the link between thoughts, emotions and behaviours, and practice effective strategies to manage emotions in the moment.

Display Resilience

You can't build resilient teams without resilient leaders. As well as managing their emotions when under pressure, inspirational leaders are able to handle uncertainty, stress, mistakes and setbacks with poise & grace. They are able to put things into perspective and do not dwell on them, adapting to new situations with ease and communicating calmly & confidently at all times. They invest in their own physical & mental health and create a strong support network to help them cope with emotional overload.

Develop by working with a coach to build mental resilience and learn scientifically proven skills to manage negative thoughts, handle strong emotions, develop perspective and tackle stress. Proactively take care of your mental and physical health and spend time connecting with others to build a support network.

Develop & Support Talent in Others

Inspirational leaders are able to identify talent in others, unlocking each team member's potential and finding the right role for them within the organisation. They think ahead to the roles that organisations will require in the future and focus on employing people with strong traits such as emotional intelligence, love of learning, communication & drive, as much as technical expertise and performance. They look for cultural 'adds' rather than culture fit and think inclusively when hiring. They nurture talent within the organisation, providing high quality mentoring and coaching to help create a strong succession plan.

Develop by spending time thinking about your team, their skills and talents, what they are struggling with right now, what you could do to help/support them, and what their future role could be with the right development opportunities.

A successful person find the right place for himself. But a successful leader finds the right place for others.

John C. Maxwell

Show Compassion & Genuine Concern For Their People

Compassionate leaders listen to, empathise, support and connect with their employees, building strong relationships in which employees feel valued, respected and cared for, enabling them to reach their potential at work. They promote belonging and psychological safety, working with their team to find solutions to problems, rather than telling people what to do. They listen attentively and show understanding, balancing concern for their team with the need to move the organisation forwards and showing genuine care for people's feelings and wellbeing when tough action needs to be taken.

Develop by making time to genuinely connect with your team, asking questions and sharing more personal details of your life too. Find shared interests and use them to build relationships and create a sense of belonging. Practice kindness and aim to create one genuine positive interaction with people each day.


It might seem like a lot, but all of the leadership characteristics listed above are developable. Whether you choose to improve them through coaching, mentoring with a leader who exhibits these traits, or reading about, learning and practising the skills; being committed to personal and professional development is key.

Keystone Coaching offers high impact, evidence-based executive and leadership coaching to provide you with a safe, confidential space in which to explore, develop and hone your leadership skills. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you unlock your leadership potential.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page