The 5 Spires of Leadership

Leadership is one of those qualities that is so hard to measure. Yet, in life and in business, great leaders are not hard to spot. They are those who have the ability to seize their potential as well as release the potential in those around them. They bring individuals together to form a cohesive team and align diverse talents and energies in pursuit of a common goal. They inspire people to give their all to group initiatives, not because they have to, but because they want to.

As I was thinking about inspiring leaders, I began to realize that leaders do a lot more ‘spiring’ than just ‘in-spiring’.

Leaders must first aspire, then perspire. They must conspire and inspire in order to transpire.

Do you know that the ‘spire’ part of these words comes from the Latin spīrāre meaning “to breathe”? Let’s take a look at 5 spires or breaths that can change the world.


A true leader must first have their own aspiration.

Aspire: derived from the Latin word aspīrāre which means to breathe upon or pant after. It means to have a great ambition or ultimate goal; desire strongly… to long, aim, or seek ambitiously.

When you choose to follow someone, you usually choose someone who is going somewhere. You are drawn to those people who have ‘great ambition’ and are pursuing a goal of higher value than their own rewards.

What is it that you aspire to? What are your aspirations? What do you “pant after?”

Pant: comes from the Greek word phantasioûn to have or form images and have visions. (OK, in the interest of full disclosure there is a crude inference in the Greek and Latin for this word 😉

Do you have visions, dreams, and goals or have you given up on those? Does it feel like you are chasing the visions of others, serving many masters and their agendas… like you don’t really have a choice?

GOOD NEWS: You can choose to aspire at any time. Check out my December 2014 newsletter if you’d like more tips on how to do that – but don’t click this link until after you finish this newsletter. 😉


OK, not many of us like to think about sweating, but perspiring is a necessary ingredient to leadership. You must be willing and able to do the work… and leadership is work.

Perspire: derived from the Latin word perspīrāre which means to blow constantly (said of the wind), breathe through; to emit through pores; exude as a result of strenuous exertion.

We all want to follow leaders who aren’t afraid of doing the work necessary to get the job done and reach their aspirations. How many times have you seen people in positions of leadership who believe that leadership is just bossing other people around and telling them where to go and what to do? As soon as these ‘leaders’ turn their backs, their ‘followers’ are going in the opposite or at least a different direction. They are the types of leaders who go running after their subordinates saying “Come on. Follow me!! I’m your leader!

True leaders get the job done and set great examples for their followers.

“Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” 
– Sam Ewing


This word is most commonly used with leadership but in and of itself is insufficient to acquire willing followers.

Inspire: comes from the Latin word inspīrāre which means to breathe into or upon. When someone inspires us they stimulate us to action and fill us with arousing emotion.

We follow leaders who draw us in to their cause and make us feel as though we are an integral part of the solution. It’s not just a practical, rational ambition. It’s an ambition that stirs your emotions… stirs your soul. It’s a competency that requires the ability to connect with others. These leaders skillfully breathe life into us and inspire us to move and act in a way that accomplishes “our” goal. Yes, “our” goal – not simply their goal.

“There are only 2 ways to influence human behavior: You can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” – Simon Sinek


In today’s western society, conspire usually has negative connotations associated with it. In the American Heritage Dictionary the first definition is “To plan together secretly to commit an illegal or wrongful act or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action”. Yet, if we look further, we’ll find that the next definition states, ‘To join or act together; combine: “Semisweet chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso, Cognac, and vanilla all conspire to intensify the cake’s flavor”.’ (Did I make you hungry with that one?)

Conspire: comes from the Latin word conspīrāre which means to act in harmony; to breathe with. When we conspire, we act or work together toward the same result or goal.

Doesn’t that last definition sound like a metaphor for what great leaders do. Great leaders know that to accomplish their ambitions they can’t do it alone. Great leaders bring individuals together with diverse tastes and talents to form a cohesive team aligning their collective energies in pursuit of a common goal.


Transpire: to occur; happen; take place; comes from the Latin words trans- meaning beyond and –spīrāre which means to breathe; beyond breathe.

Leaders make things happen. They create. Leaders take ideas and effort and turn them into tangible, measurable, valuable things. They take things beyond breathe and make them a reality. Leaders generate value!

When a leader is able to aspire, perspire, inspire and conspire, they will inevitably transpire their great ambition. Their ultimate goal will be revealed and come to fruition. This result comes about not because of the leader’s efforts alone, but because the leader was able to rally a group of people around their collective goal, not because they have to but because they choose to. This allows everyone to play their part in the grand production of the mission.

Your Leadership

Here’s an exercise for you. Take out a sheet of paper (do you still use that stuff?) or you can open up a document on your computer. Copy these 5 questions below and take the time to answer them. Do this today!! Don’t wait.

  1. What are you aspiring to?
    What is it that is greater than yourself that you desire?
  2. What are you willing to work for?
    What do you believe in so much that you are willing to fight for it?
  3. Is your aspiration and perspiration great enough to inspire others to join you?
  4. Are you open to conspiring with others to achieve your aspirations? (even if you don’t get the credit?)
  5. Can you envision your mission at the moment it transpires and reveals itself to the world?
    How does that feel for you and your team?

Spire: a tall, acutely pointed pyramidal roof upon a tower; the highest point or pinnacle of your aspiration.

If you don’t have answers to the questions above, you may be struggling as a leader. But don’t give up. Ask for help from others to help you find the answers. Great things will happen when you realize you don’t have to have ALL of the answers and know EVERYTHING or pretend that you do. Don’t believe me? Check out this video and see if you can recognize who’s speaking.
(Can’t figure it out? Highlight the space from the colon to the right parenthesis
to reveal the answer: Steve Jobs)

Remember… You just have to keep looking, working and growing. Why? Because the view from the top is SOOOO worth it!



 I would love to hear what you think about this edition of Breaking Free.  Please leave your comments below.



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