What Inspires The World's Top Leaders

What Inspires The World's Top Leaders

How inspired are you? What motivates you to be a better person, or to do better work? Maybe it’s a memorable phrase or moving piece of art. Perhaps it’s an individual, or an enlightening experience.

LinkedIn recently launched an Inspiration Index, which asks members to chime on how inspired they are. As it turns out, demographics play a large role. According to the 3,200 respondents, females under age 29 tend to feel less inspired than their male peers–but that changes as they age: Women older than 65 feel considerably more inspired than men.

Your line of work also has something to do with it. Individuals who hold creative jobs or jobs in the public interest tend to be more inspired than others. The top five most inspired industries include fine arts, religious institutions, sports, professional training and coaching, and non-profit organizational management.

To find out what exactly inspires successful individuals – what adds joy and meaning to their process of creation – LinkedIn asked some of the most accomplished leaders to weigh in.

Last fall LinkedIn launched the ‘LinkedIn Influencers’ program, which gives its members the ability to follow an exclusive group of thought leaders who contribute to the platform regularly. Today, the group of ‘Influencers’ exceeds 300—including President Barack Obama, Meg Whitman,David Cameron, Jeff Immelt, Richard Branson, and Arianna Huffington.

As part of the ‘Influencers’ program, LinkedIn regularly assembles editorial packages where the thought leaders write posts on the same topic. In the latest series of original posts, “What Inspires Me,” about 60 leaders in business, politics, real estate, travel, technology, and media shared their thoughts on inspiration.

Here’s what seven top leaders had to say:

Richard Branson

What Inspires Me: Game-Changing People Everywhere

“My professional inspiration has no separation from my personal inspiration: it is people who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference to other people’s lives. I am fortunate to come across quite a few of these game-changing people, and the desire to help (and keep up with them!) is what drives me,” the Virgin Group founder wrote.

He said: “If you are creative, then inspiration can come from anywhere. Creators are never fully satisfied. They can always be better. They are determined to change the game for good. I would love to hear what motivates you, too. Where do you find inspiration?” he concludes.

Read his full post here.

Naomi Simson

What Inspires Me: Please Tell Me I Can’t

“Tell me I ‘cannot’ do, be or have something – and that is the surest way to inspire me into action,” says the RedBalloon founder. “What inspires me is simply when the ‘impossible becomes possible’ – to tackle a problem and never give up, no matter how challenging.”

Simson writes that she never thought that people took her seriously. “It is as if my need to ‘prove’ myself has fueled my relentless pursuit to create a best work place, for growth and for being ‘world-famous’ for what we do. To show all those people that said to me ‘you can’t’ – that in fact I can.”

And she’s equally inspired by other people’s stories of creating the possible from the impossible, she says. “If I hear a story of someone who has overcome the odds, worked hard, focused, fulfilled on his or her word – and has been relentless in changing the world to make it a better place – I feel unbelievably inspired and uplifted.”

Read her full post here.

Kathryn Minshew

What Inspires Me: An Elevation That Can Get You Unstuck At Work

“There’s nothing like standing on top of a mountain to make you feel powerful,” writes the founder and CEO of The Muse. “In June 2010, I’d just quit a job that drained me, and I was about to start a new career I was excited for. What better way to celebrate that transition than a flight to Cape Town and a hike to one of the most gorgeous vistas in the Southern Hemisphere: Lion’s Head, South Africa?

Minshew says she went for the adventure–but also because she has found that “seeking out heights, peaks, and zeniths gives me a little perspective when I need it most. Maybe it sounds silly, but the world really does look different from up there.”

“When I need a confidence boost, a cure for the professional doldrums, or just a fresh shot of career inspiration, I’ve found one of the best tricks is literally going up–to the highest peak you can find,” she says.

Read her full post here.

Jon Steinberg

What Inspires Me: It Was All Started By a Mouse

“This photo of Walt Disney designing Disney World hangs on my office as a constant reminder that massive things are possible,” writes Steinberg, BuzzFeed’s president and COO. “And massive things always start by definition from something small. To quote Walt, ‘I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.’

He says Disney inspired him so much that as a kid, his dream was to become a Disney Imagineer and work on theme park design. Steinberg realized his dream in high school when he interned for the company.

“The Disney way is to dream the big and impossible and then build it. The requirement of physical construction is all the more daunting when compared to software,” he writes. “When I’m faced with a challenge or a project that seems too large, I swivel my desk chair and look at the picture of Walt or my badge from my days at Imagineering. It makes me realize that anything can be built, and that decades ago, people with far less technology built things that seem even daunting even today. One day at a time, brick by brick, anything can be built.”

Read his full post here.

Pete Flint

What Inspires Me: Solving Big Problems

“Professional inspiration comes in many forms, whether it’s important people in your life, such as career mentors and influential family members, or perhaps it’s the thrill of being a part of an organization that is building something you are passionate about. I have friends who can even trace the evolution of their inspiration back to a single, life-changing event,” writes Trulia’s chief executive.

“For me, however, inspiration comes from solving big, meaningful problems with people I admire and love to work with. Deep, far-reaching challenges that keep me thinking, engaged, and ultimately energized. Looking back, I can see time and again I was most inspired and did my best work when I was trying to solve big problems.”

Flint says despite the progress that the real estate industry has made over the last decade, when he looks forward he still sees a lot of work that can be done solving challenges for consumers and the professionals who serve them. “It’s the kind of big problem that inspires me every day.”

Read his full post here.

Trish Regan

What Inspires Me: My Mother’s Determined Pursuit to Find Answers

“The memory is etched in my mind,” writes the Bloomberg Television anchor and editor-at-large. She was about four or five years old when she tagged along with her mother, a journalist, on one of her field reporting assignments.

“We were at her friend’s home, and I was told to wait in the living room on a pale yellow couch,” she writes. “On a polished-wood side table to my left sat a series of photos; a young mother with her daughters, a woman with her husband, a woman laughing.”

Regan says she didn’t understand it at the time, but the woman in the pictures — the woman whom her mother was interviewing — was dying of lung cancer.

“Could this woman’s final days have been made easier by having access to medical marijuana to help manage her pain? It was the central question posed by my mother, months later, when she wrote her Boston Globe article on New Hampshire’s efforts to decriminalize medical marijuana. Our tiny northeastern state known for its ‘Live Free or Die’ motto was at the forefront of the medicinal use movement, and my mother was reporting on it.”

Regan says when she later made the decision to pursue a career in journalism, this memory played a critical role. “I knew that, in this career, I’d have the opportunity to examine and explain the issues effecting our country’s future. I’d also have the ability to ask questions that society needs answered and, most importantly, I knew that I’d be able to help give a voice to people that otherwise may not be heard. I realized early on that being a journalist came with an enormous amount of responsibility. This sense of responsibility is what inspires me every day.”

Read her full post here.

David H. Stevens

What Inspires Me: A Depression-Era Dad and Pioneer Mom

“My personal inspirations are my parents. Yes, I admit it’s a bit cliché, but their voices have been in my head for my entire life,” writes Stevens, the president and CEO at Mortgage Bankers Association.

“The pair – a depression-era war veteran, hard working executive, and stern father, and a pioneering and creative mother – taught me how to live my life. Here are a few of my lessons that sum this up: Save for the future; work hard; take measured risks in your career; enjoy life; help others less advantaged; survive any change; and question authority. Nothing can sum up anyone’s parents, but I first experienced inspiration from these two. Lessons from my parents live on in my life,” he concludes.

Read his full post here.