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Leading to inspire others: charismatic influence or hard work?

Glenn D. Searle (Insp(Higher), Queensland, Australia)
Stephanie J. Hanrahan (The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 28 September 2011




The purpose of this paper was to examine inspiring others as a psychological construct in leadership contexts by investigating lived and personal experiences of inspiring leaders.


A phenomenological design was used to investigate leaders' personal and lived experiences of leading to inspire others. In‐depth interviews were conducted with seven participants nominated by others as inspiring leaders based on the demonstration of five characteristics (vision, openness, transparency, passion, and being somewhat unconventional).


Participant responses coalesced into five key dimensions of leading to inspire others: connecting, leading, inspiree, action, and context; enabling a functional description of the phenomenon. Furthermore, results indicated that leaders could intentionally cultivate opportunities to inspire others through interaction and effort.

Research limitations/implications

Given that the paper investigates leaders' experiences of the phenomenon, further investigation into the relational and reciprocal aspects of inspiring others is required. Research has primarily focused on participants in the inspiring relationship independently of each other (i.e. either the inspiree or the leader).

Practical implications

Contrary to assertions in some transformational leadership studies that personal charisma is the primary component to inspiring others, these findings indicate that inspiring others requires an active process where leaders establish interpersonal connections and enable action.


Research on inspiration is at a formative stage. This paper represents an initial foray into the space where scholarly knowledge on leadership theory and inspiration intersect to provide greater insight into leading to inspire others.



Searle, G.D. and Hanrahan, S.J. (2011), "Leading to inspire others: charismatic influence or hard work?", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 32 No. 7, pp. 736-754.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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