Character – The Second C of Leadership

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” ~ John Wooden

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.  In this post, we will further explore the second of our Seven Cs – Character.]

Throughout the leadership literature, there is an emphasis on the leader serving as a role model for followers.   A leader cannot be viewed as a role model; however, if they do not possess character.  Character refers to the integrity of the leader.  It means others view them as credible and possessing moral authority. 

Kouzes and Posner (2006) refer to this principle as “Model the Way” and describe it as leaders being “clear about their personal values and beliefs” (p. 3).  They go on to encourage leaders to “keep people and projects on course by behaving consistently with these values and setting an example for how they expect others to act” (p.3).  Being clear about one’s own values and setting an example for how others should act paves the way for leaders to be champions for the organization’s values.

Not only is a leader responsible for developing his or her own character, he or she is also responsible for helping to develop the character of his or her team and organization.  According to Johnson (2012), “Leaders are the ethics officers of their organizations, casting light or shadow in large part through the example they set” (p. 318).  Essentially, leaders need to serve as ethical role models to their followers, and they need to be champions of the ethical decision-making process.  This means leaders must internalize the ethical climate they promote by embodying the organization’s values and then hold others accountable to those values.  Doing so requires rewarding those who act ethically and punishing those who do not—regardless of the results from that employee’s behavior.  Leaders must walk the ethical talk.

The idea of leaders serving as role models is also especially prominent in the transformational leadership theory as it closely aligns with the “idealized influence” aspect of transformational leadership.  Idealized influence refers to transformational leaders’ ability to live by standards and values that allow followers to view them as role models.  “They [transformational leaders] are deeply respected by followers who usually place a great deal of trust in them” (Powell, 2011, p. 177).

Finally, the leader’s character is important because it affects how well others respond to the leader’s attempts to cast a vision and instigate change.  For example, renowned change expert, John Kotter (1995), states that in order to facilitate change, leaders must embody the change and serve as role models for the rest of the organization.  “Communication comes in both words and deeds, and the latter are often the most powerful form” (p. 6).  He then goes on to emphasize the importance of leaders communicating the change vision “in deed” because, “nothing undermines change more than behavior by important individuals that is inconsistent with their words” (p. 6).  Similarly, Roger Gill (2003) also emphasizes the importance of leaders serving as role models when facilitating change.  Gill writes, “In any change process, the change champions – leaders – must be credible,” and he then goes on to define credibility as being perceived by others as honest and competent (p. 316).

It is this link between character and change that sets the stage for the next or third C, Catalyst.

References:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Johnson, C.E. (2012). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 1-9.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Powell, G. N. (2011).  The gender and leadership wars.  Organizational Dynamics, 40, 1-9.

Composition: The First C of Leadership

As we introduced in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  And second, to be effective in influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying these Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.

The Inta-Greated Leadership Model

In this post, we will further explore the first of our Seven Cs – Composition. 

To begin with, transforming culture requires transforming organizations and institutions, and transforming organizations and institutions requires transforming individuals.  Therefore, culture cannot be transformed without individuals being transformed.  That is why leadership must begin with composition.  Composition requires that the leader understand the unique personalities, strengths, and motivators of themselves and others.  As Drucker (1999, p. 11) writes, “The need to manage oneself is therefore creating a revolution in human affairs.”  Essentially, one must effectively lead oneself before attempting to lead others.

In addition to Drucker (1999), Charles Manz also (2001) emphasizes that leaders must first lead themselves before they lead others.  “We are challenged first to examine ourselves and get our own act together before we try to lead others” (p. 12).  As leaders, we have to understand our personality style, strengths, motivators, learning styles, and weaknesses because this forms the foundation of our growth and development.  Knowing oneself and identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses helps leaders become more effective – not only personally but at the team level as well.

Once one has taken the time to understand oneself – personality traits, learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses – one also has the responsibility to understand that others are just as unique.  Then, instead of rejecting those differences, one is able to see them as complements.  It allows one to create and lead a team where others’ strengths balance one’s own weaknesses.  Or, in the words of strengths-expert Marcus Buckingham (2008), “There are no well-rounded leaders – only well-rounded leadership teams.”  And finally, at the organizational level, this awareness allows leaders to better match individuals to roles/jobs that play to their strengths.

In regard to transformational and servant leadership theory, composition closely aligns with the “awareness” and “building community” characteristics of servant-leadership.  According to Spears (2002), leaders build community, by caring for others and bringing them together.  Spears also notes that this ability stems from the leader’s level of awareness.  Being aware involves having a deep understanding of oneself and others which “strengthens the servant-leader” by allowing him or her to build better teams.  Finally, awareness also “aids one in understanding issues that involve ethics and values” which leads us to our second C, Character (p. 6).

References:

  • Buckingham, M. (2008). The truth about you: Your secret to success. [Video]. (Available from Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN).
  • Drucker, P. (1999). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 64-74.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • Spears, L. C. (2002). Tracing the past, present, and future of servant-leadership. In L. C. Spears, & M. Lawrence. (Eds.), Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the 21st century. (pp. 1-16). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

The Inta-Greated Leadership Model

Leadership is often discussed but rarely understood.  A complicated discipline – it represents a mix of psychology, sociology, anthropology, communications, business, and political science theory – it is not easy nor for the faint hearted.  Instead, leadership is a calling that requires dedication, perseverance, and humility.  For those who persevere, however, leadership is greatly rewarding as leaders play a key role in creating, changing, and cultivating culture.  But first, being an effective leader requires that an individual understand what leadership really is.

To many, leadership equates to management.  And yet this is not the case.  Management is focused on tasks and details and comes from a place of positional authority.  In contrast, leadership is focused on vision and serving others from a relationship built on influence.  Anyone with a title can demand a certain level of compliance from their subordinates; however, a true leader is one who not only inspires compliance but greatness.  I grew up playing sports, and in that context we used to call it “giving 110%” or “running through walls.”  At worst, management will result in people giving up when faced with a wall; at best, those people might figure out a way around the wall.  Leadership alone is what inspires and enables people to run through walls.

The question becomes then, “How do I enable and inspire others to run through walls?”  The simple answer of “being a leader” is not enough.  What does it mean to be a leader?  After studying many different leadership theories and perspectives, here at Inta-Great, we have come to believe there is a fundamental difference between providing a definition of leadership and providing a model of leadership.  While a definition is simply about explaining a phenomenon, models are about what specific behaviors, actions, and character traits are effective or ineffective.  Definitions describe; models prescribe. With that in mind, we’ve developed the following definition and model of leadership.

At Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”

And, in order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model consisting of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; understanding the unique personalities, strengths, and motivators of themselves and the team; (2) Character; cultivating credibility and moral authority; (3) Catalyst; inspiring and aligning action toward a common vision; (4) Compassion; coaching and empowering people to do the best they can; (5) Communication; persuading, presenting, listening, and negotiating; (6) Courage; seizing opportunities despite the inherent risk and uncertainties; and (7) Celebration; showing gratitude and celebrating success.

We believe that embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels ultimately resulting in real personal and cultural transformation and sustainable results.  Please see a visual representation of the Inta-Greated Leadership Model as Figure 1.1 below.

The Inta-Greated Model of Leadership

Free from fads, fluff, and feel-good teaching, the Inta-Greated Leadership Model is based on proven leadership principles.  To illustrate this, we will be publishing a series of blog posts in the near future that will discuss how each of the Seven Cs connect to the leadership literature.  We hope that you join us as we explore the research and evidence supporting each of the Seven Cs and the impact they are capable of having at the personal, team, and organizational levels.  And, as always, we wish you the best of luck as you continue on your leadership journey.

The Three Cs of Decision Making

“…but above all else leaders are made or broken by the quality of their decisions” (Garvin & Roberto, 2001, p.2).  Leaders are faced with many decisions on a daily basis.  Some are made in an individual context, – Should I go to this lunch meeting? Or, how should I respond to this email? – and some are made in a team context – Should we invest in developing this new product?  Should we expand into this new market?  Should we merge with this organization?  However, regardless of the size or context of the decision, what remains the same is that leaders will be judged on the quality and outcomes of their decisions.

Because of this, it is important for leaders to study how to make quality decisions, especially decisions where a group or team is involved.  So, when you are faced with such a situation, remember to implement the “three Cs” of decision making: (1) conflict, (2) consideration, and (3) closure.

Conflict refers to the importance of cultivating conflict by encouraging people to speak their minds even if it means challenging the leader’s opinion or the group’s consensus (Garvin & Roberto, 2001).  There is a difference between negative conflict and constructive conflict.  Negative conflict attacks individuals whereas constructive conflict questions ideas and assumptions.  When a group of people are able to focus on the ideas on the table and not the individuals who presented the ideas, it is possible to identify opportunities and threats that may not have been evident before.  And, creating space for people to speak their mind, even when it contradicts with popular opinion, or your opinion, is also the first step to practicing consideration.

As a leader, the second step to practicing consideration is to make sure people feel as though you have listened to and considered their point of view – even if it is not the solution you ultimately choose.  Research has shown again and again that participants feel validated and more willing to support the outcome of the decision-making process when they feel as though they were given a legitimate opportunity to express their opinion on the matter.  You can give them this opportunity by asking questions, probing for deeper explanations, and making eye contact when others present their positions.

While the discussion generated through conflict and consideration is valuable, at some point, the discussion must come to an end.  For that reason, it is important for you to make a final decision and communicate it to the group, thus indicating closure. When communicating this final decision, you should outline a few reasons why you chose this course of action.  This will not only reinforce the participants’ experience of consideration, it will also cut down on office gossip as it prevents people from guessing your motives.

When taken together, the “three Cs” are meant to facilitate the generation of multiple ideas and alternatives and produce a well-thought-out solution.  The goal of using the three Cs is not to persuade the group to adopt your point of view, but rather, on identifying the best course of action (Garvin & Roberto, 2001).  To this end, the use of the three Cs encourages critical thinking and the challenging of one another’s ideas, but not the attack of one another.  “The implicit assumption is that a consummate solution will emerge from a test of strength among competing ideas rather than dueling positions” (p. 3).

Overall, while embracing this process is a good first step toward making quality decisions, you must also be on guard against practices which threaten to derail the decision-making process.  Such practices are otherwise known as heuristics, and we will discuss them more in a future post.  In the meantime, when working with your leadership teams, remember to focus on the three Cs of decision making: conflict, consideration, and closure. 

Referenced Works:

  • Garvin, D.A. & Roberto, M.A. (2001). What you don’t know about making decisions. Harvard Business Review, 79(8), 108-116.

2013–A New Year & A New Start

2013– a new year and the perfect time for a new start.  

This concept is nothing new.  For as long as most of us can remember, people have been using this time of year to set their “New Year’s Resolutions.”  However, for most people, those resolutions are broken as quickly as they are made.  Anyone with a gym membership will tell you gym traffic typically doubles during the month of January before slowing down to its usual flow around mid-February.  So why are we so bad at following through with our New Year Resolutions?

Most of our resolutions tend be made in the moment with lots of emotion but with little consideration and little planning.  For example, we look into the mirror on January 1st, see the results of our holiday merry-making, and adamantly declare–“I NEED to lose weight!  I will start working out!”  This example highlights another problem with many new year’s resolutions–they tend to be reactive and not proactive.

The many problems begin shortly after we join the gym.  We don’t actually know what exercises we should be doing–are we just trying to lose weight or build muscle?  Or maybe we should be trying to tone muscle.  Then, real life hits, and suddenly it is hard to fit going to the gym into our busy schedules.  And finally, we haven’t actually made any changes to our eating habits, so even though we are going to the gym a bit more often, we’re not seeing the results we want–and before you know it those problems add up and we stop going to the gym altogether.  Have you ever experienced anything like this in your own personal or work life, and what can we do about it???

Most resolutions fail because they are not linked to a broader vision.  Instead of standing alone, personal and organizational goals should support our personal or organizational vision.  Therefore, identifying the vision becomes the first step.  We’ve already discussed the “Key Aspects of a Great Vision” before, so we won’t go into all the details about it here.  But, we will remind you that quite simply, vision paints a picture of the future state you/your organization wants to achieve.  It defines what success looks like.  If we go back to the weight loss example, a strong vision statement would be, “Living a healthy lifestyle that includes a regular work-out program and a nutritional diet.”

But sometimes, having a big vision can seem overwhelming to a leader.  We have these big dreams—how are we ever going to achieve them?

The answer is simple; we need a plan.  The key lies in translating the vision into multiple, smaller goals.  When we do this, it is very important to write these goals (or resolutions) down.  Writing them down creates personal accountability, because now, we have a list that we can go back to and measure ourselves against.  However, don’t just take my word for it…

According to Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech (as quoted in Five):

  • 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals.
  • 16% of Americans have goals, but they don’t write them down.
  • < 4% of Americans actually write their goals down.
  • < 1 % of Americans write down their goals on an ongoing basis.
  • People who regularly write down their goals earn 9x as much over their lifetimes than those who don’t.

So, don’t wait.  Make this the year you get serious about your resolutions.  Take the time and identify your vision and break it down into smaller goals to achieve that vision.  Then, write those goals down.  You’ll be amazed at the difference consideration and planning can make.

Referenced Works:

  • Zadra, Dan. (2009). Five: Where will you be five years from today?. Seattle: Compendium, Inc.

Thanksgiving Leadership Lessons

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we at Inta-Great hope you had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, and maybe even some time to relax and rejuvenate.

We also hope you had some time over the holiday vacation to reflect on what and who you are thankful for—in both your personal and work life.  So here’s our question, did you let anyone know what you are thankful for?  Did you let anyone know you are thankful for him/her?

Thanksgiving serves as a good reminder about how important it is to express gratitude.  Good leaders are appreciative.  They understand that an encouraging word and a sincere “thank you” can help motivate others and create a positive work environment.  After thirty years of research,leadership experts Kouzes and Posner concluded in their latest book, The Truth About Leadership, that:

“the highest performing managers and leaders are the most open and caring…They are more positive and passionate, more loving and compassionate, and more grateful and encouraging than their lower performing counterparts.” 

Why does being grateful and encouraging make such a difference?  It’s quite simple really.  We all work harder and smarter for people we like, and we tend to like people who appreciate and encourage us.  This is often clear in our personal lives.  Most of us would not settle for a spouse or significant other who did not appreciate our efforts or encourage our personal development—and the data shows us that most of us will not settle for a boss who does not appreciate our efforts or encourage our personal development either.  A Gallup poll of more one million employed U.S. workers concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor.  And, a separate study by Florida State University found one of the main reasons someone is labeled as a “bad boss” is for “failing to give credit where credit is due.”

Not only do people work harder for bosses they like, they are also more willing to take smart risks.  Recently, we wrote an article about the importance of courage and risk-taking when it comes to leadership.  As a leader and manager, you should strive to cultivate leaders at all levels of your organization, and this means giving employees the freedom to take risks.  Innovation will not take place if your employees are afraid to leave their comfort zone.  Knowing they work for a positive and encouraging boss makes employees feel safe enough to be courageous and innovative.

That is why it so important for leaders to not only be appreciative, but to express their gratitude as well.  Don’t let this overwhelm you.  Expressing gratitude doesn’t mean you have to develop a new, complex HR policy about employee recognition, it just means you have to say “Thank you.  Kouzes and Posner put it this way, “recognitions don’t need to come in the form of elaborate events or expensive awards.  In fact, the more personal they are, the more impact they can have.”

So, if you haven’t already, take a moment and reflect on who and what you are thankful for this year.  Maybe you’re thankful for the many ways your spouse has supported you this year.  Maybe you’re thankful for how your employee managed that high profile project.  Maybe you’re thankful for the dedication and loyalty someone has shown to the organization.  Perhaps you’re thankful for someone’s positive attitude and enthusiasm   Maybe it’s even something “little” like everyone pitching in to keep the office kitchen clean.

Then, once you’ve identified who and what you’re thankful for, let them know it.  Send them an email.  Add a personalized thank you note to those Christmas/Holiday cards you hand out every year.  Or better yet, tell them in person.  For many leaders, end-of-year or mid-year employee performance reviews are coming up—those are great opportunities to let your employees know you appreciate them.  In the end, we promise you’ll be thankful that you did. 

Referenced Works:

  • Kouzes, J.M. and B. Z. Posner. (2010). The truth about leadership: The no-fads, heart-of-the-matter facts you need to know. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Courage, Failure, & Leadership

cour·age
noun \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\
Definition of COURAGE
: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty
–  Definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When it comes to defining courage, the key phrase is: “and withstand.”  Courage is not about fearlessness.  It is about being afraid and moving forward anyway.  It is about pursuing a passion—a purpose—that is greater than one’s fear.

In his book, Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley identifies courage as one of the “five essentials for those who will shape the future.”  I’ve struggled with this emphasis on courage because courage seemed to be more of a personality trait than a skill.  And, requiring a leader to have a certain personality trait reminded me of the outdated “Great Man” leadership theories.  These theories essentially said that leaders are born, not made, and all great leaders share a certain set of personality traits.  Contrastingly, at Inta-Great, we subscribe to the transformational and serving leadership theories—theories that focus on skills and competencies leaders can learn and develop.

However, after moving along in my leadership journey, and watching others on theirs, I have come to realize that Andy Stanley is right.  Courage is essential to leadership.  But what I have also come to realize is that courage is less of a personality trait you are born with and more of an attitude that is cultivated.  [Look for another post about how to cultivate courage in the near future.]

So, why is courage so important to leadership?  As it was defined earlier, courage involves persevering in the face of “danger, fear, or difficulty.”  Danger, fear, and difficulty tend to result from ambiguity and uncertainness about the future.  And, if there is one area leaders specialize in, it is ambiguity and uncertainty.  At Inta-Great we define leadership as, “A service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences a group of individuals toward a common purpose.”  One of the key words in this definition is “change.”

Leaders influence change toward a common purpose.  Change is inherently difficult, and sometimes frightening.  It involves leaving the realm of “what is” for “what could be.”  Leaders are not content to relax, put their feet up, and pat themselves on the back.  Instead, they are leaning forward, looking toward the future, and thinking about how things could be even better—and yet, thinking about it is not enough.

How many people at your workplace have opinions about what should change in the organization?  Probably a lot.  Most people have ideas about how communication could be improved, what new products should be developed, what management should be doing, etc.  But, they are not doing anything about it.  Contrastingly, leaders at all levels are those who not only see the opportunities, but seize the opportunities—taking steps toward making change happen despite the inherent risk and uncertainty.  This requires courage.

Sometimes taking the risk pays off.  The leader is successful and achieves what he or she sets out to achieve.  And, in some ways this is what one is taught when studying leadership.  If you follow this approach—if you utilize these essentials of leadership, or these four factors of transformational leadership, etc.—you will be successful.  But sometimes this doesn’t happen.  Sometimes a leader will do everything right—cast a great vision for the future, empower those around him or her, etc.—and he or she will fail.  What happens then?

Recently, my mentor, a successful and engaging woman, set out on a new path.  She felt led to pursue what many called an impossible goal.  She knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but her vision of what could be and her passion to serve others gave her the courage to try anyway.  And try she did.  She gave 110%, made some great progress, inspired many along her way, but in the end, she failed.  She did not achieve her goal.

So once again, she, and other leaders who have failed or will fail, must tap into the power of courage.  This time, courage will be needed to pick oneself up, identify one’s next goal, and begin working toward it.  As Mary Anne Radmacher has said, “Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

While everyone needs time to “lick their wounds” so to speak, leaders refuse to let failure define them.  Instead, they use it to strengthen them.  Leaders know that failures are great learning opportunities.  They know that failure experiences are hard, but they help the leader cultivate wisdom for next time.  Sometimes failure is a necessary perquisite for success.  This is the risk the leader is willing to take.

Why is the leader willing to take such a risk?  As we’ve already discussed, the passion and purpose the leader is pursuing is a strong motivator.  But, there is something else.  The best leaders understand that failure, while it hurts in the moment, is a passing thing.  Regret is not.  The regret that comes from not trying—from missed opportunities—can last a lifetime.  So, even more than failure, leaders fear regret.  They understand the adage, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

So, while my mentor may not have achieved her goal, she can rest in knowing that tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or twenty years from now, she will never have to look back at her life and wonder “What if…”  “What if I would have taken that risk?”  “What if I would have left my comfort zone?”  Instead, she will know that she worked hard, made a lot of progress, inspired many individuals, and paved the way for those who will come after her.

And now, in some ways she has an even bigger opportunity than those who achieve their goals—for it is during times of trial and darkness that one’s true character really shines.  By refusing to let this experience define her, she will go on to impact even more.  I know for me, she remains a source of inspiration and a great lesson in courage and leadership.  Finally, it is my hope, that others will be inspired by her story to act courageously.  For as we have seen, courage is essential to leadership. 

-Written by Valerie Faust, Director of Blossom & Flourish and Training & Development Consultant

Key Aspects of a Great Vision

You cannot lead others if you don’t know where you are going–that is why having a vision is so important.  

So, what are some key aspects of a Great Vision?

1. It is clear and compelling, and it is short and sweet.   

2. It makes people excited to be a part of something greater than themselves. 

3. It appeals to one’s need for: recognition, responsibility, and fulfillment

4. It’s NOT about the money.

Listen to the clip below to learn more about the key aspects of a Great Vision.

Motivation and Leadership

As we’ve discussed, motivation has become a buzzword in the business community. And, now that we’ve looked at some of the major motivational theories out there–Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory, path-goal theory, and McClelland’s learned needs theory–we can further explore the important role they play in organizational leadership– especially transformational leadership.

At a high level, motivation is an important leadership skill.  Motivation is defined as “(1) what energizes human behavior, (2) what directs or channels such behavior, and (3) how this behavior is maintained or sustained” (Steers, Porter, & Bigley, 1996, p. 8), or more simply, the “reason(s) I do what I do.”  As such, understanding the motivational process is important to effective leadership.  If one defines leadership as, “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes” (Rost, 1993, p. 102), motivation becomes one of the ways the leader can influence his or her followers.  To put it more clearly, motivation plays a key role in how the leader can energize, direct, and maintain followers’ behavior toward real changes and mutual purposes.

More specifically, Bass (1990, p. 13) defines transformational leadership as occurring “when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group.”  In addition to this definition, there are four factors of transformational leadership: (a) idealized influence, (b) inspirational motivation, (c) intellectual stimulation, and (d) individualized consideration (Northouse, 2010).  While motivation plays a role in all four of these areas, the three theories we have discussed play a prominent role in inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and intellectual consideration.

Inspirational motivation involves leaders creating excitement and enthusiasm around the vision and high expectations through the use of symbols, emotional appeals, and simple messages (Northouse, 2010).  Thomas (2009) explains, “the purpose and vision, then, provided a target that could align the efforts of different people to solve problems and cooperate….the compelling vision was a strong motivational force that inspired people” (p. 23).  When it comes to creating a vision or purpose statement, research has shown that not all purposes are equally effective.

According to Thomas (2009), workers are rarely inspired by purposes that are focused on making a profit or other economic considerations.  This finding is consistent with Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene theory.  Herzberg found that “concerns such as pay, security and work conditions…are less capable of energizing workers to higher levels of performance” (Hill, 2008, p. 174).   Instead, if Herzberg’s theory is followed, the vision or purpose statement should connect to workers’ need for recognition, responsibility, and the opportunity fulfill one’s potential.  For example, Chick-fil-A’s mission statement, “Be America’s Best Quick-Service Restaurant” hits on all of these needs.  The focus on being known as the best speaks to one’s need for recognition and fulfilled potential, and it makes the employees responsible to America for their service.  In addition to playing a big role in inspirational motivation, motivational theory is also important to the individualized consideration factor of transformational leadership.

Individualized consideration consists of “… focusing on the development and mentoring of individual followers and attending to their specific needs” (Powell, 2011, p. 5).  Here there is an emphasis on the uniqueness of the individual.  This factor speaks to how important it is for the leader to take the time to get to know his or her followers on an individual basis and learn their strengths and what motivates them.  For example, if one utilizes McClelland’s learned needs theory, one should identify which of the four needs the individual is primarily motivated by (power, achievement, autonomy, affiliation).  Path-Goal Theory also requires this focus on individuals’ needs.

“To apply path-goal theory, a leader must carefully assess the subordinates and their tasks, and then choose an appropriate leadership style to match those characteristics” (Northouse, 2010, p. 135).  In addition to this connection to individualized consideration, path-goal theory plays a key role in intellectual stimulation as well.

Intellectual stimulation involves supporting “…followers as they try new approaches and develop innovative ways of dealing with organizational issues” (Northouse, 2010, p. 179).  It includes removing obstacles which are preventing growth and progress from taking place (at both the individual and organizational level).  Or, in the words of path-goal theory, “The leader should help subordinates define their goals and the paths they want to take…when obstacles arise…[it] may mean helping the subordinate around the obstacle, or it may mean removing the obstacle” (p. 132).

Overall, motivation is a complicated topic that plays a critical role in effective leadership, specifically in the inspirational motivation, intellectual consideration, and individualized consideration factors of transformational leadership.

Referenced Works:

  • Bass, B. M. (1990).  From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18(3), 19-31.
  • Hill, A. (2008). Just Business: Christian ethics for the marketplace. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Powell, G. N. (2011).  The gender and leadership wars.  Organizational Dynamics, 40, 1-9.
  • Rost, J. C. (1993). Leadership for the twenty-first century. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
  • Steers, R.M., Porter, L.W., Bigley, G.A. (1996). Motivation and leadership at work. (6th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Thomas, K.W. (2009).  Intrinsic motivation at work: What really drives employee engagement. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler.

Motivation–It’s NOT all about the Money

Motivation has become a buzzword in the business community.  It is commonly listed as a required skill on job descriptions, and resumes routinely boast of the individual’s “motivational abilities.”  This emphasis on motivation has led to the popularity of motivational authors and speakers—some good and some bad.  Even the popular television show Saturday Night Live has parodied our culture’s fascination with motivational speakers—living in a van down by the river anyone? 

The question becomes why is motivation receiving so much attention?  To some extent, the increased interest in motivation is parallel to the increased interest in leadership and has resulted in the development of many different motivational theories and processes.  Of these many theories, Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory, path-goal theory, and McClelland’s learned needs theory all stand out and can play an important role in organizational leadership.

One of the most common ways leaders try to motivate employees is by implementing various financial rewards.  Leaders often hand out more money as a motivational solution because it is relatively quick and easy.  Unfortunately, it is not usually as effective as the leader would like.  Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory explains why this is often the case.

The main premise of the motivator-hygiene theory is that every job has hygiene factors and motivators.  Hygiene factors need to be present for an individual because their absence creates an unsatisfying experience; however, increasing hygiene factors does not increase satisfaction, rather it brings the individual to a neutral state (Steers, Porter, & Bigley, 1996).   According to Herzberg, hygiene factors include one’s salary and other financial incentives; “concerns such as pay…are less capable of energizing workers to higher levels of performance” (Hill, 2008, p. 174).  This is because only motivators can create satisfaction.  Motivators include opportunities for achievement, recognition, the work itself, and growth.

Other authors have since agreed with Herzberg.  For example, Pfeffer and Sutton (2007) state, “so making mistakes in pay can cause people to withhold discretionary effort, ideas, and information…financial incentives have a potent impact on performance, but not necessarily in the positive ways that executives and their advisers anticipate” (p. 5).  So in other words, if an individual feels as though he or she is not being paid fairly, he/she will be demotivated.  However, once the equity threshold is met, paying that individual more money will not increase their motivation.  Kohn (1993) also supports Herzberg’s research by concluding, “Managers often use incentive systems as a substitute for…treating workers well – providing useful feedback, social support, and the room for self-determination….” (p. 6).  One way leaders can provide this useful feedback, support, and independence is by utilizing the path-goal theory of motivation.

According to Northouse (2010), path-goal theory involves leaders who “try to enhance subordinates’ goal attainment by providing information or rewards in the work environment…” (p. 125).  More specifically, the way leaders enhance followers’ goal attainment is by understanding their followers’ unique characteristics and challenges and then responding with the appropriate leadership behaviors.  For example, providing a brand new employee with extra attention and precise direction may be helpful as she learns about her position and the organization; however, those same behaviors can be interpreted as micro-managing by someone who has been with the organization for a longer period of time.  Applying McClelland’s learned needs theory is another way to better understand subordinates’ unique characteristics. 

According to McClelland’s learned needs theory, there are four primary motivations, and individuals acquire certain needs based on their experiences.  Therefore, everyone does not share the same prominent needs or combination of needs.  The four motivations are: (a) need for achievement, (b) need for power, (c) need for affiliation, and (d) need for autonomy (Steers et. al., 1996). 

Those with a need for achievement tend to be competitive and have a high standard of excellence.  Individuals with a need for power have a desire to control their environment and be responsible for the behavior of others.  People with a strong need for affiliation want to develop and maintain strong relationships with others, and they get their validation from those relationships.  Finally, those with a need for autonomy want to control their own work and dislike many rules and regulations.  Therefore, while someone with a high need for affiliation may find the opportunity to work with a team on a project motivating, someone with a high need for autonomy would most likely be demotivated by that same prospect.

Overall, Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory, path-goal theory, and McClelland’s learned needs theory work well together and have the potential to turn motivation from a buzzword into a powerful organizational leadership tool.   

Referenced Works:

  • Kohn, A. (1993). Why incentive plans don’t work. Harvard Business Review, 71(5), 54-63.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Pfeffer, J. & Sutton, R.I. (2007). Do financial incentives drive company performance? Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Steers, R.M., Porter, L.W., Bigley, G.A. (1996). Motivation and leadership at work. (6th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill.