The Only Way to Inspire Others

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Martin Luther King inspired people not because he had a dream but because he touched the silent dream of others. He said what mattered to others.

Leaders that busily talk about themselves and their terrific dreams are bores. Inspiring others, like everything else in leadership, is about them not you.

The channel to inspiring others is hearts not heads. You’ll never reason others into dedicated engagement and passionate loyalty.

Your vision is a good idea, at best, until it connects with hearts. You inspire others when you tap into what matters to them, values.

Seeing another person’s values:

  1. Talk the language of universal values. For example, everyone values feeling important, respected, and useful.
  2. Universal values come before individual values. For example, making people feel respected opens the door to understand personal values.
  3. Ask what then why. A few what questions followed by a long series of why questions uncover values.

What questions:

  1. What energizes you?
  2. What makes you angry?
  3. What would you do if all jobs paid the same? (Thanks Joe Tye for that one.)
  4. What are you doing when you feel happiest?

Why questions:

  1. Why do you feel energized when you solve problems?
  2. Why are you feeling frustrated? One reason people are frustrated is urgencies push them away from their values.
  3. Why is the schedule so important to you?
  4. Why do you care about … ?

Keep asking why until basic values begin emerging. It’s not as simple as it sounds. Uncovering the values of others is a long process. Many people haven’t articulated their values. When they find themselves, however, they immediately begin engaging in meaningful activities.


The process is worth the effort. You inspire others by aligning organizational mission/vision with individual values.

Can you add some what and why questions to the mix?

How do you uncover the values of others?


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