Motivational Leadership

Knowing where you want (or need) to lead your business is vital, but it is only half of the story. Knowing how to get people to support your plan and follow you is also crucial. It is no use being the most visionary leader in the world if no one pays any attention

It tends to be accepted wisdom these days that a business (or a team) need a vision, but all too often it doesn’t deliver. Why? Because having a vision is only half of the solution, it has to be a compelling vision. That means compelling to those you are asking to adopt and embrace it.

In order to achieve this, we have to step back and consider what takes to make something compelling. As humans, we are programmed to automatically seek out the answer to WIFM? (What Is in it For Me?) To be an effective leader you must also consider What Is in it for Them. After all why should they do it?

The dictionary defines motivation thus:


  • Giving of a reason to act: the act of giving somebody a reason or incentive to do something
  • Enthusiasm: a feeling of interest or enthusiasm that makes somebody want to do something, or something that causes such a feeling
  • Reason: a reason for doing something or behaving in some way
  • Psychology forces determining behaviour: the biological, emotional, cognitive, or social forces that activate and direct behaviour

A effective leader tends to know, almost instinctively, what will motivate the ‘troops’. However, this is a complex area, and worth considering in a little more detail.

For example did you know that it is possible to divide your team into two groups; those who move towards something, and those who move away from something. This means that only some of your team will respond to a rosy vision of some improved tomorrow. Think about it, do you move away from trouble (“I don’t want to fail”) or towards success (“I want to be a winner!”)? Both are fine but this kind of programming tends to be a deep component of our natures and whilst we instinctively understand our own programme, we need to recognise others’ are almost certainly are different.

Money may be a motivation for some of your workforce, but others may well crawl over a bed of hot coals for some heartfelt recognition. This can take the form of simple feedback, awards, new opportunities or promotion. For someone with a relatively low threshold for the ‘humdrum’ a new project would be an exciting reward. For someone who finds change challenging this would be just another problem!

“If people are coming to work excited . . . if they’re making mistakes freely and fearlessly . . . if they’re having fun . . . if they’re concentrating doing things, rather than preparing reports and going to meetings – then somewhere you have leaders.” Robert Townsend

Furthermore, we all have our preferred ways of receiving communication. Some people need to see it, other like to hear it, and yet others to get a sense of it all. Some need to understand the ‘Big Picture’, and not be bogged down by details (after all, ‘if I don’t agree with where you are going why should I care about how we are going to get there?’) On the other hand, others need to know the details (‘If don’t know that it is practical, the goal is irrelevant’).

There are, of course, many other different elements that make up this complex subject, but it is useful to think about what it takes to get people to ‘get-onboard’. Also remember, you are unlikely to convince everyone, but the good news is, that you don’t have to! You just need to get enough people onboard to create momentum in the right direction. Others will enrol once they begin to get it.

So once you have taken the time to establish where you are heading, the next step is enrolling key supporters. Don’t spoil the ship for a ‘ha’p’orth of tar’, take the time to plan and execute this step carefully. Understand what is truly important to them, and communicate with them in a way that really means something, and you are much more likely to be successful.

“Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.” H Friedman

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