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What is more effective than motivation?

| by Dave Blundell

My dad said to me once, “If you inspire people, you’ll never have to worry about motivating them.”

What leader, parent, teacher, pastor, employer or any other position of authority you can think of doesn't want their people to be more motivated to do some things and less motivated to do others? Think about how much of your day is spent trying to motivate people to do something. To buy something. To finish something. To start something. 

First of all, what’s the difference between motivation and inspiration? 

Motivation is an effort to stimulate someone to act. The force to act primarily comes from something external to the actor. It is short-lived and is often met by resistance. Motivation has a sense of pushing, driving or compelling someone to do something they don’t naturally want to do. To motivate someone is hard work. Motivation is generally transactional and doesn’t result in transformation. Motivation is often characterized by the feeling that I should do something. 

On the other hand, inspiration is an act that influences people emotionally and mentally. The force to act comes from somewhere internal to the actor. Inspiration is often exciting, effortless and long-term. It propels or pulls people into action. To inspire someone is thrilling. Inspiration is transformational and results in sustained change. It is often characterized by the feeling that I need to do something. 

Influencers who are concerned most with transformation will work at becoming more skilled at inspiration. And your inability to inspire people will cause you to find all kinds of ways to motivate people. The lesser work of motivation requires more of the follower and can take many forms:

  • Pressure 
  • Fear
  • Guilt 
  • Manipulation 
  • Anger 
  • Passive aggression
  • Reward

The greater work of inspiration requires more of the leader, which necessitates that leaders develop the following skills:

• Vision-casting - Helping people to see the picture of a compelling preferred future for them and others. 

• Relationship awareness -Those who are students of people, forming connections and growing relationships naturally create the cycle of reciprocity that results in group cohesion and momentum. 

• Emotional intelligence - Inspiration involves emotions deep inside of us.  Our ability to inspire is directly related to our ability to feel what others feel and our ability to help others feel what we feel. 

• Storytelling -Stories personify the ideals and concepts we aspire to. Stories put us into the world of another, which gives us the ability to empathize. Empathy drives action.

• Persuasion - How do we get people to care? Creating a connection between something they don’t yet care about and something they already do.

• Exemplify - Unless others see us embody the change and the sacrifice that is often associated with change, our attempts to inspire action will be met with resistance. 

Admittedly, for some leaders, these skills are easier than for others, but to lead transformational change, they are all necessary. They can all be learned and, thankfully, the work is worth it. Our passion to transform our churches, workplaces, families and communities must be met with an equal passion to develop these competencies in our lives. 

As a leader, if you do nothing else, inspire. 

Photo source: istock 


Dave Blundell

Rev. Dave Blundell is the Executive Director of Hungry For Life International. Dave holds an M.A. in Leadership and is the author of Professionally Religious: The Spiritual Poverty of Spiritual Leaders.



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