How to be a Truly Inspirational Leader: No.1 - Walk The Talk

By Rajita Kulkarni | Posted: September 12, 2018

(This is part -1 of an 8-part series on leadership qualities by Rajita Bagga.)

Everyone wants to be a leader. In a traditional sense, you are a leader only when someone follows you! But why should anyone follow you? What qualities, values do you radiate that inspire others to be influenced by you? It is easier to think of the power, position, and perks that come with leadership positions than to think of the immense responsibility and accountability they bring along. Unfortunately, many times, leaders think of the former more than the latter. Those that think of the latter get counted and quoted in the league of inspirational leaders. Such leaders become folklore. Their countrymen, their teams, and their stakeholders remember and recount their examples, memories and countless instances of exceptional behavior for years on end. Such leaders shape ideas, individuals, and institutions. They are a gift to humanity.

Surely, all of us have met at least one such leader in our life. And surely all of us aspire to be an inspiring example of leadership for our people. I have worked with both types of leaders. Some who have taught me what to do, and some, what not to do. I have, myself, been in leadership positions for the past two decades of my professional career. I have encountered hundreds of dilemmas, challenges, obstacles, and opportunities. There have been times I have surprised myself with my resilience and courage. There have also been times I have asked myself: “How could you do this?” The answers are always easy in theory. It’s in practice, when the rubber hits the road that the real moment of truth happens.

Leadership is an evolving lesson

As the world around us changes and as we change, the realities of our life change. As I reflect, I can say, I have learned my lessons on the qualities of a truly inspiring leader. These lessons are from my personal experience of what inspired me or what I did that inspired others. However many times, I have heard comments like, “We know what to do, the difficulty is how to do it!”. What has helped me in my leadership journey is the intentionality of effort. Reading books, watching videos and hearing talks can help only that much. All these can move us emotionally, appeal intellectually. What can integrate it into our personality is a reflection, observation, practice, and a commitment to action. This can galvanize into real change.

In coming weeks, I will be discussing eight qualities that I have understood as important for truly inspiring leadership. We will take up one quality every week. Think of this as a short self-tutorial with a short daily personal reflection exercise and an action plan for you to use:

  • Reflection is a powerful tool that enables you to step back and assess your behavior.
  • Observing helps you understand your patterns.
  • Writing down the action plan, solidifies the intention for improvement.
  • This is your daily appointment with yourself.
  • Be brutally honest and real.
  • Set aside a few minutes every evening to do this exercise.
  • Follow the action plan for a week to see the result for yourself.

Leadership Quality 1: Walk the talk

Common sense and obvious, but quite uncommon! So many leaders just don't do this. We have enough and more examples in politics, the government and the private sector where we see this not being practiced on a day-to-day basis. This breaks trust, dilutes confidence, and creates an environment of dissonance in the team. Whereas leaders who walk the talk, create a collaborative team and can demand excellence. Wouldn't we like to work with leaders who do what they say and practice what they preach? Then we have to demonstrate exactly that. Nothing inspires more confidence and trust in a team than to have a leader who walks the talk.

On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you rate yourself on this quality? How much would you like to move the needle?

Daily personal reflection exercise

A) On importance of this quality

i) Do you think this quality is important in your leadership expression?

ii) If yes, Why? (Write a few words.)

B) Challenge areas

i) List down areas/instances where you feel you may NOT be walking the talk in your leadership role.

ii) Write down how you felt in those moments.

iii) What effect do you think this had on your team/stakeholders?

iv) Write down the reasons you are unable to walk the talk.

 a) How many of these were in your control?

PAUSE for a moment.

C) Success areas

i)  List down instances where you ARE walking the talk.

ii) Write down the emotions you remember/associate with those instances.

iii) What effect do you think this had on your team/stakeholders?

iv) Write down the actions that you did which were exceptional.

7-day action plan

A)  Overcoming challenges

i) For the above where you are NOT walking the talk, write down the change you plan to make and explore how you will implement it.

PAUSE for a moment.

B) Consolidating success

ii) For areas where you are walking the talk, identify ways in which you can make this behavior more consistent.

Share your experiences at: You can also connect with the writer at

Originally published on:, India

By Rajita Kulkarni, President at Sri Sri University and World Forum For Ethics in Business, Featured as top 100 inspirational women of India by INBA publication - The Phenomenal She, Excellence in Education Global advocacy and action on ethics, Transformational Leadership Coach, Global citizen

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