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Development and validation of the inspirational leaders survey.Purpose The Inspirational Leaders Survey (ILS) was developed to identify the behaviours and characteristics of inspirational leaders. The main aim of the ILS is to help businesses identify and recruit inspirational leaders into their workforce. Design/methodology/approach After a literature review 75 inspiring behaviours were identified. The items were examined through the exploratory factor analysis of responses from a sample of 212 adults; and a confirmatory factor analysis from a sample of 248 adults employed in various organisations with management systems. Findings Two factors with nine items emerged as the best approximation of the population covariance matrix of the three models tested from the results. The factors were called 'Individual Behaviours (five items: desire to achieve success, determined to achieve goals, passionate about work, committed to achieve success, and hardworking)' and 'Relationship Behaviours (four items: ability to instil confidence in people, inspire others, offer hope to others, and offer stability and direction to others)'. Originality/value The characteristics of inspirational leaders have received only limited empirical assessment, and an instrument to measure these characteristics has not been widely available. Such an instrument could provide a useful tool to identify inspirational leaders in our social and work- related groups. The present study describes the development of the ILS, which would help human resources in organisations identify and recruit inspirational leaders into their workforce.