Richard Branson is famously quoted as saying “

As a leader of people, you have to be a great listener, a great motivator, be very good at praising and bringing out the best in people.”

These are all good qualities for any leader or parent – but I would like to extend it a bit further and say that to genuinely inspire energy and greatness in your team firstly comes from how you inspire energy and greatness in yourself.

The simple rule:
There is a simple rule in leading others that I have found to be true, time and time again. You can’t generate for others what you can’t generate for yourself. I have seen this first-hand with many leaders I have worked with over the years – and in myself. The leaders who struggled to properly praise their teams were equally terrible at praising themselves. The leaders who were worst at pausing and celebrating milestones with their team were even harder with themselves. But the opposite is also true. Those that set inspiring momentous goals for themselves were great at inspiring others to do so. And leaders who were passionate about personal self-awareness and growth were just as passionate and committed to the growth of others.

Building self-awareness:
You can’t underestimate as a leader how important it is to develop your self-awareness. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours attending self-improvement courses – but it does mean asking some questions from time-to-time and seeing where they take you. Here are two ways to explore:
1. Self-appreciative inquiry:
Appreciative inquiry is the process of exploration which looks at the positive, what’s working and how you can do more of these things. It’s about discovering the things that you are great at that you can inspire in others.
2. Self-critic inquiry:
Our self-critic is well known to many of us. It’s the voice inside that says what we can’t do, shouldn’t do, what’s not working and where we are failing. Rather than lamenting that we have a self-critic, use it for self-awareness. Its purpose is to protect (a hangover from our cave dwelling days) and whilst it doesn’t typically offer this protection in the most constructive ways, it can be useful.

Questions for exploration:
The next stage is to explore these concepts further with questions for contemplation or journaling. This is basically a conscious stream of thought on paper about a particular topic. Questions to ask include:
– What are my proudest moments in life so far?
– What are my best qualities that I admire most?
– When I’m toughest on myself, what I am criticising myself for?
– When do I let myself down?
Key questions for post analysis:
– How easy or hard was it to answer those questions?
– What did these tell you about your ability to inspire greatness and energy in yourself and others?
– Which of your qualities give you energy & you feel inspired to strengthen?

Through regular exploration, you will begin to gain more insight into how to inspire energy and greatness in yourself and others. Perhaps even going beyond the obvious and inquiring a little deeper, more reflectively into the realms of emotional intelligence (link to why EQ is fundamental) In doing so, you will awaken a more profound sense of what means to be a great leader.

Sarah Friis is an author, facilitator and mentor of high performance teams. She has recently published “The Power of Team – A practical guide to breakthrough performance”. Sarah has a Masters in Psychology and is co-founder of, a leading global team resource dedicated to unleashing the power of team.