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.

Importance of Leading Oneself

Leadership is about influence, service, and transformation.  First, leadership does not come from positional authority; rather it is based on influence.  Second, it is the leader’s job to serve the people.  For as leadership-expert Larry Spears states, “True leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others and see them grow” (1998, p. 3).  Finally, successful leadership is about transformation—the transformation of individuals, organizations, and even broader culture.  It is in this transformation piece where professional development plays a key role.

Transforming culture requires transforming organizations and institutions, and transforming organizations and institutions requires transforming individuals.  Therefore, culture cannot be transformed without individuals being transformed.  As Peter 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.

Once one has taken the time to understand oneself: personality, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, etc., one 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), “A great team player volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time and deliberately partners with people who have different strengths.”

The important question then becomes, how does one lead oneself?  One important way one can learn to lead oneself is through professional development.  Some professional development tools we use at Inta-Great include: the DiSC Profile, The 360 DiSC, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership, The Truth About You, and a listening profile—among other things.  All of these assessments are meant to help individuals understand more about themselves and the way they think, feel, and act.  On top of these tools, identifying personal values, writing personal mission and/or vision statements, setting SMART goals for one’s life, and developing a relationship with a mentor are all great professional development exercises.  And more formally, professional courses/seminars and advanced education also constitute professional development.  And yet, professional development is not only confined to resources outside of oneself, for as Donald Schon (1983) is quick to point out, the reflective practitioner is a resource onto himself.

The reflective practitioner is one who engages in reflection-in-action as a means of professional development.  Reflection-in-action takes place when one thinks about what he or she is doing while he or she is doing it.  This allows one to conduct mini-experiments, apply theory to a situation, and, in real-time, evolve the theory until the desired results are achieved.  This reflection-in-action allows one to recognize the tacit understandings which have been guiding one’s actions, perhaps even hindering one’s effectiveness (Schon, 1983).  Schon (1983, p. 68) sums it up when he says, “When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice of context….[he] constructs a new theory of the unique case.”

Overall, professional development, through both external resources and internal reflection-in-action, is the foundation of self-leadership.  Then, self-leadership is the basis for personal transformation.  And finally, personal transformation is “the breath that sustains our ability to lead others” thereby transforming organizations and institutions, and ultimately culture (Manz, 2001, p. 16).

Resources:

  • 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.
  • Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. NY: Basic Books.
  • Spears, L.C. (Ed.) (1998) Insight in leadership. New York: Wiley.

Leading Change

New years tend to bring new resolutions. Are you trying to implement some changes inside your organization?  If so, remember, consistent communication reinforces the change process.  What some more information?  Here’s a link to an overview of John Kotter’s classic article, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.” 

What is My Calling?

There is the leader one is and the leader one is meant to be.  According to Richard Leider, the key to having these two leaders meet is asking the difficult question, “What is my calling?”  Asking this question requires courage to look inside oneself, identify one’s strengths and talents, and explore how to offer those strengths and talents to others.  Recognizing one’s own calling is only the first step, however, truly great leaders are able to recognize the potential in those they serve and help them discover the leader they are meant to be as well.

Leider defines calling as “the inner urge to give our gifts away.”  Therefore, when one asks “What is my calling?” he is really asking, “What gifts do I possess, and how can I offer these gifts the world?”  Answering this question requires a lot of introspection and honesty.  It also emphasizes the principle that good leadership starts with the self.

One’s own life must be transformed, one’s own questions answered, before one can hope to successfully lead others.  As the old adage tells us, “One cannot give away what one does not possess.”  It is only after one takes the time to explore his or her own strengths and stewardship of those strengths that one’s full potential can be reached.

After understanding one’s own strengths and talents, true leadership requires the ability to help one’s followers identify their strengths and talents.  Why?  Because a great leader knows and responds to the differences in calling and gifting among the people he or she serves.  This allows the leader to pull together a team whose sum is exponentially greater than all its parts.  Or, as strengths expert Marcus Buckingham puts it, “There are no well-rounded leaders, only well-rounded leadership teams.”

In the end, asking oneself “What is my calling?” is the key to unleashing the vast potential inside oneself, and then, inside others.  It is the key to transforming the leader one currently is into the leader one was designed to be, and the results are sure to be remarkable.

*Richard Leider, “Is Leading Your Calling?” from Leader to Leader, Winter, 2004.

Why Does Leadership Development Matter?

Times are tough.  We are in the middle of a recession.  That’s the truth and there’s no getting around it.  As an executive you may think, “Yes, I believe leadership training and organizational development work is important, but I just can’t afford it right now.”  Well, think again.

According to the world-renown research institute, the Gallup Organization, businesses that have optimized employee engagement have 2.6 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry.  On the flip side, within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates the cost of disengaged employees to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity.  Ask yourself a question—can you afford that?

What makes an employee “engaged?”  Engaged employees sense alignment between an organization’s vision, values, and everyday practices.  And most importantly, engaged employees have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday—they work from their strengths.  In fact, Gallup reports that employees who have the opportunity to “focus on their strengths every day” are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.

Inta-Great will come along side you and help your organization create alignment around a clear vision, mission, and values.  We also have programs designed to help your employees become more self-aware, understand what their strengths really are, and learn how to communicate those strengths to you and their peers.  But it can’t stop there—for real change to take place you need to know what to do with that information.  That is why Inta-Great offers services to help you achieve organizational transformation.

The last thing very successful companies have in common is great leadership.  Credited leadership expert Jim Collins has found that great leaders—“Level 5 Leaders”—garnered stock returns at least three times the market’s for 15 years after a transition period So while it important for your employees to be engaged and working out of their strengths—it is important for you as well.  Organizational culture is created from the top down; therefore, Inta-Great offers many services and programs for C-level leaders.

There is one important caveat—this is not a “quick fix.”  Transformation is a process not an event Real change takes time and commitment.  It is not easy, but our team at Inta-Great promises to support you and provide you with all the tools you will need as you grow yourself and your organization to greatness.