Several years ago, I was with a group of managers and we were talking about leadership and our role as leaders. We talked about the word inspire, and I remember one fairly young manager saying "whoa, I never thought of myself as someone who inspires." He responded as if the word was sacred. But by the end of the session, he began to really grab hold and accept the idea, and walked away looking at his position in a brand new light.
He was right in thinking the word carried some sort of holiness to it. It was derived from the latin word "inspiratus," pp of inspirare which means to "inspire, inflame, blow in to," from "in-spirare" which means "to breath" or "to breath into". Websters says that "to inspire" means to influence, move or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration." So I like to think that "to inspire" or "in-spirit" means to breathe spirit into someone, to not only touch their soul but to awaken it, as if we were breathing oxygen into someone who needs it to sustain life, i.e. a method of divine CPR.
So you can see how critically important it is to inspire someone, to wake up in the morning with the thought of "who am I going to inspire today?" or better yet "how many people can I inspire today?" Inspiring someone isn't difficult -- a smile, an act of engagement or a few words of gratitude or encouragement is sometimes all it takes to bring greatness up and out of someone's inner being. Try it for 21 days (it takes 21 days to create a habit) and see how you can breathe life into others.
For those of you who are leaders in your organization, you have much bigger opportunities and perhaps a much bigger responsibility to inspire your employees. There are some very simple things you can do to inspire people such as take 6 people on your staff to lunch -- but take 6 people you've never had lunch with before. Invite them personally. Or call an impromptu "stand up" staff meeting for no other reason than to share with them how you personally were inspired by something or someone lately, and make the story relevant to your staff. Employees have a tendency to emulate the leadership, whether they consciously choose to or not. If you inspire them, they'll be more likely to inspire others.