Inspirational Leadership

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What does it mean to be an ‘Inspirational Leader’ or have ‘Executive Presence’?

Research exploring leadership strengths and qualities suggests there are a number of components to being a ‘successful’ leader, 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 still 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 worked to identify the key factors underlying Inspirational Leadership and how this differentiates from having Executive Presence. We also investigated whether the two concepts are the ultimate drivers of business success.

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 (CEO’s), Heads of Learning & Development, Business Directors, Partners, Senior Consultants and Global Business Development Managers. Our interviewees also conducted a quantitative survey assessing the organisation-wide perceptions of Inspirational Leadership and Executive Presence.

Zircon’s research into Inspirational Leadership & Executive Presence found:

  • There are seven distinct qualities associated with Inspirational Leadership, including, Integrity, Charisma and Drive.

  • Inspirational Leadership qualities can be split into two distinct groups: Intrapersonal or emotional qualities and interpersonal or social qualities.

  • There are four qualities associated with Executive Presence, such as Credibility and Gravitas.

  • Executive Presence is one element of Inspirational Leadership: There is a great degree of similarity between elements of Executive Presence and Inspirational Leadership, suggesting Executive Presence may form part of the ability to become an inspirational leader.

  • Leaders who have Executive Presence are not necessarily Inspirational: Inspirational leaders have Executive Presence but leaders who have Executive Presence are not necessarily Inspirational.

  • Less than 10% of all leaders are Inspirational and have Executive Presence: Inspirational Leaders with Executive Presence are few and far between in the workplace.

This white paper covers areas such as:

  • What is Inspirational Leadership?

  • Why Inspirational Leadership is important

  • Can you learn to be an Inspirational leader?

  • What is Executive Presence?

  • Why Executive Presence is important

  • Can you train someone to have Executive Presence?

Please click here to download our Inspirational Presence publication and the following previous Zircon publications:

Assessing Talent

Winning Attitudes

HR and Talent in the 21st Century

The Future of Talent Management



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