Motivation vs. Inspiration

“Excellence endures and sustains. It goes beyond motivation into the realms of inspiration.” —Azim Premji

Webster’s definition of motivation is the process of motivating through force, stimulus, or influence. Inspiration is defined as the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions. The words motivate and inspire are often used interchangeably but, they have very different meanings. So, do you want to motivate your employees or so you want to inspire them?

       The external

I think of motivation as an external force. Picture the carrot or the whip in getting the behavior you want. When you motivate employees, you get them to perform purely to receive a reward or to avoid punishment.

              The internal

I think of inspiration as an internal force. Picture excitement, pride, and being part of something bigger that influences behavior. When you inspire your employees they perform because they are internally driven to make a meaningful contribution.

Why it Matters

Motivation can provide a great incentive for achieving short-term results. But, for the long-haul, do you want employees going through the motions purely to receive a reward or to avoid punishment? Or, would you like employees who are loyal to you, dedicated to doing a good job because they are proud of their contributions, and inspired to be part of something great? The fact is, both motivation and inspiration play an important role in leadership. Motivate employees to achieve short-term goals; inspire employees to reach far beyond your vision.

So, what are you going to do?


© 2017 Elizabeth Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


4 thoughts on “Motivation vs. Inspiration”

  1. Hi Liz, thank you for making the important distinction between these two methods, respectively employed by two different types of leaders.
    Uninformed, or incompetent leaders will use motivation as a means to get the staff to do what they want and need to be done. In my opinion, motivation is a form ‘bribery’., which is not a smart, nor beneficial means of creating an environment of trust, loyalty, or teamwork.
    Leaders who recognize the value of building those three traits into the firm culture, do so through inspiration and encouragement.
    I also believe that the only effective form of motivation is that which comes from within the individual; self-motivation. It is demonstrated in their level of initiative and work ethic.
    Those who are encouraged to develop and utilize these traits are the ones who are more likely to remain with the firm and eventually become part of its future leadership.

    1. One has to be inspired to be self-motivated.
      I was thinking of it that inspiration drives motivation inside out.

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