Examples of Leaders Who Motivate in the Workplace

by Valerie Bolden-Barrett

The debate on whether leaders are made or born might never end. But what seems clear is that autocratic, impersonal leadership styles fail to motivate and inspire people, especially in today's workplace. In a "Psychology Today" article, "5 Big Discoveries About Leadership in 2012," David Rock, Ph.D., CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute, writes that employees are motivated by leaders who make them feel secure, accepted and connected.


Honesty is the single most respected leadership quality, according to the American Management Association, which offers leadership training. Leaders with integrity are candid communicators. They present the facts as they understand them and give straightforward responses when queried. They recognize and admit their own shortcomings and weaknesses. And they follow a code of conduct based on honesty in both their personal and professional lives. A boss or colleague who's perceived as trustworthy can lead workers to raise their performance standards or take on a challenging team project. James F. Bracher, founder of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership, describes integrity as congruity between what leaders say, what they do and what they say they do. In short, leaders with integrity "walk the talk."


The AMA describes motivating leaders as realists. They avoid deception and have no delusions about themselves, people or life in general. Realists see the world as it is, not the way they think it should be. They lead by example and inspire others with their authenticity. If they're heading up a task force, they're upfront with team members about how difficult the work and the effort going into it might be. Realists also are honest about their leadership roles. Robert L. Joss, former dean of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, equates leadership with responsibility instead of power. He also advises leaders to invite honest feedback from critics through surveys, town hall meetings or one-on-one conversations.


Successful leaders are visionaries. They win support for their ideas by sharing their vision for the future. According to the AMA, vision separates leaders from followers. Leaders focus on a broad mission. They might identify technological advances that can help build an organization's brand or increase its share of customers in the marketplace. By contrast, followers are entrenched in day-to-day activities, such as office procedures or production schedules.


Responsible leaders are reliable. They step forward to get plans under way by proposing a new product idea, perhaps, or forming an exploratory committee. They credit people for their achievements. But they also accept overall responsibility for failures and unmet expectations instead of shifting blame.


Bad leadership, often in the form of self-centered, egotistical managers, lowers productivity at an annual cost to employers of $360 billion a year. The authoritarian leadership style of merely telling others what to do, rather than connecting with them, is bad for business, notes Mr. Rock. Based on AMA standards, leaders motivate others by listening carefully, asking questions and establishing rapport to create consensus. Team members launch projects or meet sales goals under leadership that engages and inspires them.

About the Author

Valerie Bolden-Barrett is a writer, editor and communication consultant specializing in best business practices, public policy, personal finance and career development. She is a former senior editor of national business publications covering management and finance, employment law, human resources, career development, and workplace issues and trends.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images