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Some thoughts on life, purpose, leadership, ministry and some other stuff.

Leadership: Moving From Motivation To Inspiration

As leaders, our greatest challenge is the mental and psychological (and spiritual, if you’re a religious leader) alignment of the people we lead. We are not just called to cast vision and paint great pictures. We are commissioned to make sure our people are in the right space and frame to carry the torch and pass on the fire. We must be great at ensuring they are strategically positioned to succeed. Meet our fraternal twins: motivation and inspiration. These two words have been interchanged so much, we have become blind to how vastly different they really are. They might be word-twins, but they look nothing alike.

Say we need Sam to drive to a particular city. Motivation is like buying the car, fueling it, teaching Sam how to drive and trying to convince him on the importance of going on this trip. Motivation is usually filled with ‘5 Ways to do that’ and ‘7 Things You Need To Achieve That’. With Motivation you have basically done all the work, and all that is left is the actual trip. Sam is on the trip because you have given him the right reasons he needs. Motivating Sam is about giving him good reasons to act.

Inspiration on the other hand doesn’t buy the car, fuel it nor provide driving lessons, not that it can’t. Inspiration doesn’t speak in ‘lists’ and ‘Points’, When we inspire Sam, we help him capture a picture in his mind and heart. This picture, usually of a desired future, is painted by Sam and causes him to be dissatisfied with status quo. This dissatisfaction compels him to save for a car, fuel it, get some driving lessons and go on the trip of his life. Inspiration causes Sam to dream; it causes him to think first before he acts. This voluntary mental and psychological engagement sets inspiration apart from motivation.

Here are some contrasts between motivation and inspiration:

  • Driven by suggested goal vs. Driven by the need for fulfillment

  • External power source vs. Internal power source (inspiration means ‘in spirit’)

  • Transferred exuberance vs. Generated conviction

  • Action-Focused vs. Vision-Focused

You get the gist? So guys, let’s empower Sam to dream again and pursue those dreams. Let’s make room for Sam to generate a strong desire that compels him to act. When we share our vision with Sam, let’s make sure he gets it. Let’s make sure Sam acts because he ‘gets it’ and not because he ‘has to’. Let’s get inspirational, my friends.


  • This doesn't rule out the need for motivation all together. That should not be all we do!

  • I cannot guarantee that inspiring will be easy. Experience proves motivation is much easier.

  • I cannot promise this blog will make Sam the ideal staff, assistant, volunteer or follower.

What do you think about motivation and inspiration?

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