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Some leaders motivate much more effectively than others. The greatest examples come to mind immediately. Born in South Africa, I think first of Nelson Mandela. But we have many examples to emulate.

As a leader within an organization, you probably won’t be asked to transform a nation by motivating its population, but you can transform yourself into an extraordinary leader. You can begin by studying how great leaders motivate and incorporate their methods into your current set of leadership skills.

Authors Zenger, Folkman, and Edinger, have done a lot of the studying for you. Their book, The Inspiring leader: Unlocking the secrets of how extraordinary leaders motivatezenger inspiring leaders, examines the leadership behavior of the most successful leaders and advises how to incorporate their skills into your leadership style.

I’ve condensed some of their work here and recommend reading their book as part of your ongoing commitment to leadership development.

Set Goals that Stretch

Extraordinary leaders approach challenges with confidence and estimate what you and your team can achieve with encouragement and optimism. They lay down reachable, never unreasonable, goals and celebrate those who do stretch themselves and achieve beyond their own expectations.

Communicate with Power

To rise to the exceptional level of leadership, you must communicate more powerfully and more often. That means addressing the big, tough, and important issues with emotionally driven calls to success. Great leaders place emotion over logic and dreams over data when calling their forces to action. They stay positive and focus on the benefits of success as they apply to their teams as well as to the organization and the world.

Develop People

Embrace, foster, and promote a deep commitment to personal development. Make opportunities for your employees to learn and grow simple and easy to reach. Offer formal developmental programs, workshops, courses, projects, and the like. When you delegate, do so in order to grow people rather than to get your unwanted responsibilities off your plate.


Teams outperform individuals in every way. And today teams must collaborate inside and across your organization as well as across international boundaries. Outstanding leaders encourage teams to collaborate rather than compete. They begin by becoming models of how to collaborate.

Foster Innovation

The human spirit thrives on creativity, solving problems, and bringing new ideas to fruition. All people are creative and will innovate given the opportunity within an environment conducive to creativity. If you’re not seeing a constant flow of new ideas, find out what’s in the way and remove the barriers.

Welcome suggestions and examples of new thinking from anywhere. Explore what’s going on outside of your own environment and take your employees with you. Talk to your customers, stay on top of trends, and encourage your team to do the same by engaging them in discussions about new ideas.

Learn More

I recommend reading The Inspiring leader: Unlocking the secrets of how extraordinary leaders motivate. In addition, consider our Motivating Employees Custom In-house workshop.


Helanie Scott
Helanie Scott
Helanie (pronounced yeh-LAH-nee) Scott, CEO and founder of Align4Profit in Dallas, Texas, has driven stunning leadership and cultural transformations for an impressive list of organizations. She has mastered the ability to connect with her audiences in the boardroom, classroom, on stage, or in one-on-one coaching sessions. Helanie’s Align4Profit clients rave at the way her engaging programs freshen outdated mindsets and deliver results-oriented, aligned action.