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How would you develop managers to be more inspirational?


We're currently conducting a survey into what people think about their managers. Early indications show that few of the respondants are inspired by their manager.

Is this something that organisations should be worried about, and if so what is T&D's role in developing the ability to inspire?

Tim Schuler

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Tim Schuler

11 Responses

  1. Defintion
    Could you define in greater detail what you mean by Inspirational? What kind of behaviours would someone who was being ‘inspirational’ manifest? Without understanding what is meant by that fairly amorphous terms its is difficult to think about what the inputs might be. If I have a clearer understanding of what you mean I will certainly give you my ‘tupenneth’. Reviewing the questionnaire doesn’t shed any more light on this issue.

  2. Fill in the blank
    But Garry, what inspires me will not necessarily inspire you, so I’m not sure that providing a definition is helpful (let alone possible) at this stage.

    Surveys of this type are by their nature subjective. I happen to find it interesting that few respondants are inspired by their manager, whatever that may mean to them as individuals.

    Am I alone in this, or is it actually something that organisations should be concerned about?

  3. Definition
    Well here’s my personal response to the first part of your enquiry. Are many people inspired by their line managers? Probably not, that’s only a personal opinion. I am inspired by people I see on TV and read about in the newspapers, and they are usually engaged in activities which have absolutely nothing to do with work. So am I inspired, yes, does my line manager need to do that? Not for me personally

    Now as to whether the training department should do anything about this. The issue is this; since we don’t know what inspiration is, the T&D role cannot be defined, the first step would therefore be to find out what is really meant by this vague term and then determine whether it is something that should and can be acted on by the T&D function. In short who knows?

  4. T&D can try but….
    This is reminiscent/similar/related of the issue that cropped up a few years ago relating to creativity;
    ~people went on a creativity course and came back enthused, inspired and creative. Within a few weeks they were back to their “business as usual” attitude because the risk averse, micro-management culture didn’t nurture the spark.

    We should also be aware that many of the respondents to the survey will be managers themselves…they are not inspired by those above them so they are unlikely to inspire those below.

    T&D cannot do it alone (though it can tick the box that says “we have spent X£ on it therefore we have done it”)…there has to be a holistic and joined up approach that runs through all the stakeholders; shareholders, top team, managers, staff and even the customers.

    I’m sure that this also opens issues of “leadership v management” in terms of whether a manager should be inspiring people, but similarly it opens questions of whether inspiration comes from within as well as without….do I choose to be inspired by an opportunity or do I choose to be depressed by that because I see it as a problem?

    Rus Slater

  5. What is it?
    >>>>Is this something that organisations should be worried about,>>>>


    >>>>and if so what is T&D’s role in developing the ability to inspire?>>>>

    Its too nebulous for T&D to create any justifiable successes from. So we’ll steer clear unless definitions and measurements can be created.

  6. Difficult to measure, but…
    This discussion has raised several questions for me.

    I think Rus has hit the nail on the head with linking this to the managers/leaders debate. For me, the ability to inspire is certainly a component of leadership. Someone (sorry, I can’t remember who) put it rather nicely when they said that ‘a leader makes other people want what they want, and not just do what they want – that’s a dictator.’ So perhaps one question is about whether we want our managers to be leaders or dictators.

    The need to define ‘inspire’ more clearly sent me back to look at the Management Standards (which incidentally were a primary reference point in designing the survey). Leadership is clearly identified as one of the skills required by managers, but had I over-simplified the language in my attempt to make the competencies as accessible as possible? The answer is possibly yes, although one of the ‘behaviours which underpin effective performance’ for unit D7 is ‘you inspire others with the excitement of learning’.

    If as T&D professionals we find ‘inspire’ too nebulous to measure, I hate to think what we’ll make of ‘excitement’.

  7. Do some research?
    If the management of the organisation want to be more inspiring, then there is something T and D can do.

    In any organisation there will be some managers that are much more inspirational than others. You don’t need a technical definition, just ask employees who are the most inspiring managers and they will come up with the same ten people.

    Then interview the ten inspirational managers in depth and find out what they do and how they think that makes them inspiring. The common elements form a profile of an inspiring manager in your organisation. There is an article about how to do this and examples on my website,

    When you have the profile think about how to train or develop the other managers in the skills and attitudes of your inspirational managers. One or two of the latter will be delighted to help you.

    Would this work?

    Best wishes

  8. Inspiration
    For me, inspiration is about passion. It comes from “within” when someone’s passion is totally aligned with their words and behaviours and touches a part of me. It’s ‘roots” lie in valus and beliefs. if I am “inspired” it may motivate me to do / achieve something…. it come from a different part of me. I think it’s possble to be inspired but not act…. but if inspriation really touches deeply, then it is a powerful force for action.

    Yes, we can name managers who “inspire’….. and I am willing to bet it’s their passion that touches people. Can this be learned? Passion comes from values and “heart” engagement with whatever the “topic” is…. a trainer may put simply across an idea that connects with something deep inside – that’s inspiration.

    I think it would be a sad day if we try to develop competencies and measures for “inspiration”!!! But we could change our recruitment processes and hire people who have deeply aligned values and beliefs and attitudes that underpin their behaviour. But of course what one person finds inspiring, others may not….

  9. Don’t worry about being inspiring,
    Worry about unleashing the full potential of employee creativity, innovation, productivity, motivation and commitment. If accomplished, your people will be 30 to 300% more productive and love to come to work.

    To do this, stop telling your people what to do and start really listening to them. Learn from them what they need to do a better job and then give it to them.

    To read more about this approach, read “Actions speak louder than words” at

    This approach has to be taught from the top down.

    Best regards, Ben Simonton
    Author “Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed”

  10. Inspiring leaders are emotionally intelligent leaders
    Inspiration is about feelings, being moved, being motivated into action. The essence of this is emotional intelligence which can be both measured and developed. The best leaders have high levels of emotional intelligence – they know how to win people, get people on board, earn trust, respect and loyalty. In my view EI based personal development gets individuals and teams on the right track for inspiring and resonant leadership.

  11. 10,000 volts or pointing out the inspired
    There’s two options

    You can’t train somebody to be inspired…

    1. you can point out the impact of not being inspirational on others

    2. you can point out the difference between them and people who inspire them

    3. you can always use a chair plugged into the mains and replace the uninspired… just make sure they’ve got their feet in water, it’s quicker!


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