As a Leader, Who Inspires You? How Do You Inspire Others?

Article originally published in the American City Business Journals on February 27, 2018

The most effective leaders inspire their followers to achieve things beyond that which they thought they could accomplish. From where do these leaders get their inspiration?

One of the sources of inspiration for me are short YouTube videos of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Some of these videos are about people who fail but they learn from their failures, never give up and go on to become successful. People who never fail never accomplish anything. When they fail, they have the courage to continue to get back up and try again.

Whenever I face challenging circumstances, I watch these inspirational videos. Two of my favorites, a few minutes each, are as follows. They have had a huge impact on me.

I hope you are inspired by them as I always am:

Augustinian priest Father Bill Atkinson, a paraplegic teacher who inspired more than a generation of students at Monsignor Bonner High School in a suburb of Philadelphia once said, “I can’t touch or feel someone’s hand, but I can touch and feel someone’s heart.” That is what inspirational leaders do – they touch one’s heart.

I am inspired by individuals who make decisions that are consistent with their high standards of ethics and integrity and exhibit courage and fortitude when their decisions may not be popular at the time.

There is a passage in the West Point Cadet Prayer that reads, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” Remember this, especially when you run into situations that require difficult ethical decisions. This is a lesson for many of our county’s leaders who face challenging issues.

As vice chairman of the board of Drexel University, I have the privilege of addressing the university’s College of Medicine M.D. and Ph.D. graduates each year. I share with them the story of Icarus, the character in Greek mythology. Icarus’ story is a great metaphor for how one should approach the challenges of a career.

According to legend, Icarus flew too high, too close to the sun. The wax holding the wings to his back melted, and he crashed into the sea. Should Icarus have played it safe, and flown lower?

Seth Godin, the author of “The Icarus Deception,” writes, “It is far more dangerous to fly too low than too high, even though it might feel safer to fly low. You settle for low expectations and small dreams and guarantee yourself less than what you are capable of. By flying too low, you also shortchange not only yourself, but also those who depend on you, or might benefit from your work.”

I tell our medical school graduates, “During your career, be sure you don’t fly too low. Take risks and fly high, and if you crash, you will pick yourself up and fly again.”

I also tell these graduates to be sure to protect their integrity and reputation during their career. Once damaged, you never earn those assets back.

So, what is the source of your inspiration? As a leader, how do you inspire others? There is no greater way to impact another individual, to make a difference in their lives, than to inspire them. This is my legacy to the next generation of leaders. What is your legacy?

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at

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