Inspirational Leadership

What are the defining characteristics of an ‘Inspirational Leader’?

Publication Date: April 2015

This white paper examines what it means to be an ‘Inspirational Leader’ and how this is different to ‘Executive Presence’.

Research exploring leadership strengths and qualities suggests there are many components to ‘successful’ leadership, however little is known about what makes a leader inspirational and what it means to have Executive Presence. Although many businesses seek to promote Inspirational Leadership and Executive Presence, a degree of uncertainty remains as to what it means to have Executive Presence and what is required to be an inspirational leader. Here we recognise an inspiring leader as a role model, someone who has the necessary knowledge to create a vision.

On the other hand, Executive Presence relates to the ability to deliver ideas with conviction and confidence, whilst possessing a consistent desire to engage others. In this research, we have identified the key factors underlying Inspirational Leadership and how this differentiates from having Executive Presence.

In an attempt to further understand what constitutes Inspirational Leadership and Executive Presence, 196 in-depth interviews were conducted with leaders from a wide range of job roles including: Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Heads of Learning & Development, Business Directors, Partners, Senior Consultants and Global Business Development Managers.

Zircon’s research into Inspirational Leadership & Executive Presence articulates the qualities and attributes associated with Inspirational Leadership and Executive Presence, and provides real examples of both characteristics.

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Linda Litherland
Head of Learning and Development : University of East London

At UEL, Amanda has been instrumental in supporting our senior leaders with having difficult and challenging conversations. She is engaging and excellent at building lasting relationships which get to the heart of an issue and recommend solutions. The BeTalent products and facilitation is proving to be invaluable and has improved the wellbeing and performance of the leadership and Dean cohort phenomenally.


Zircon is a fast moving and adaptable talent management consultancy whose purpose is to help organisations grow, change and manage risk – developing talent strategy with a deep understanding of commercial context and aligning the management of talent with commercial objectives.




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