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Face The Challenge - Sample Section, Chapter 7

Chapter Seven - Motivation

"Motivation" analyzes the numerous elements of leadership motivational skills; and presents a down-to-earth, intellectual basis upon which to build a broader understanding of what motivates others to adopt a Leader's goals as their own. From motivational theory to actual leadership application, the reader is provided with an in-depth analysis of common motivational skills that increase Subordinate motivation to achieve greater levels of proficiency and those elements that debilitate their spirit.


7.1 Understanding Motivation.  The key for Leaders to better understand what motivates their Subordinates is for them to better understand themselves and their own motivations.  For as the legendary "invisible hand" (Adam Smith, English Economist & Author: Wealth of Nations 1776, 1723-1790) subliminally controls the intricate functions of capitalism, this same "intelligent self-interest" force universally dominates each rational individual's interactive behavior.  And as the ever-present invisible hand guides buyers and sellers to maximize their own input-output ratios and decisions based upon their experience as to what they must do to successfully compete in the marketplace, intelligent self-interest causes individuals to respond to their various environments or situations to their maximum personal advantage.  For if they remain true blue to failed behaviors, they will eventually go hungry as a result of their inability to adapt to the situation.  Similarly, individuals who are motivated by their self-interest can be depended upon to rationally maximize the personal benefit ensuing from their efforts, though such benefits may be of both a materialistic or altruistic nature.  Individuals who do not act within these reasonable parameters are usually deemed to be self-destructive or untrustworthy, and must subsequently modify their behavior or be removed from the organization.  As it is through this intelligent self-interest steering mechanism that individuals constantly balance the time and effort that they must expend to achieve specific goals against the value to them of meeting a certain combination of needs.  And when individuals perceive that the benefits accruing to themselves are equal or greater to the value they ascribe to the required time and effort, their motivation to cooperate in achieving an objective is proportionately increased.  Thus a Leader's ability to control or motivate his or her Subordinates' behavior is directly dependent upon his or her power to satisfy this value to exertion ratio (McGregor, HSE p20).  In essence, Leaders are negotiating daily with each individual offering: wages, career opportunity, a sense of achievement, and other "extrinsic" as well as "intrinsic" rewards in exchange for their Subordinates' time and effort to accomplish the organization's objectives.  So if what a Leader offers is generally deemed to be fair compensation (considering all the monetary, environmental, or supervisory factors involved) for such output, Subordinates will be more highly motivated to achieve their common objectives than if it is not.  And the greater number of employment alternatives available to their Subordinates, the "fairer" Leaders must be to stimulate the desired performance level.  Consequently, "when we speak of motivating people, we are referring to the possibility of creating relationships between the characteristics [needs] of man [woman] and the characteristics of his [her] environment [workplace] that will result in certain desired behavior" (McGregor, TPM p6) and a happy fiscal ending.


(A) While individual intellect is characterized by wide variations, as illustrated by the familiar intelligence quotient (IQ) bell curve, there is far less variation in the standard deviations marking an individual's "emotional [motivational] quotient" or EQ.  For as a simpleton feels no less the depths of anguish when suffering from a broken heart than a genius (though the letters, songs, or poetry may not be as profound), a group of rocket scientists has a commonality of motivational needs that is strikingly similar to those of day laborers.  Or a doctor interacting with his or her receptionist may not demonstrate any greater motivational skills than the average quick-service restaurant shift-supervisor despite his or her potential for having greater intellectual capacity or being more highly educated.  Thus superior intelligence no more connotes leadership ability than it clearly identifies artistic, musical, or athletic talent; though it is a decided advantage in developing the expertise and knowledge levels necessary to maximize one's particular genetic resources.  And as is true with many people who take singing lessons, Leaders with superior physical attributes (e.g., appearance, bearing, or speaking ability), proper encouragement (e.g., parental or supervisory nurture), native intelligence, or personal drive will generally surpass their less endowed peers in hitting the motivational high notes.


(B) However, "Leaders do not create motivation out of thin air.  They unlock or channel existing motives [desires of the individual to meet certain needs]" (Gardner, OL p14).  Nor can Leaders go to their local pharmacy; buy a quart of concentrated motivation, mix it with three quarts of water, and have a gallon of anything.  Successfully motivating Subordinates to achieve the desired objective is totally dependent upon the Leader's understanding of their personal aspirations (needs) and his or her own ability to positively impact Subordinates both individually and collectively using the motivational agents available to the vast majority of Leaders, including: (i) adequate compensation, (ii) recognition or appreciation, (iii) increased responsibility, (iv) conducive working conditions, (v) sufficient respect and acknowledgment, (vi) the opportunity for meaningful achievement, (vii) greater pride or self-esteem, (viii) being part of a team, (ix) longevity of employment, (x) potential for advancement, and  (xi) increased prestige.  Though the degree to which each of these agents actually motivates a specific individual may vary significantly, these basic motivational needs are common to all individuals; regardless of how contorted their external mask or unproductive their current behavior might appear to be.  With their primal needs including: basic survival, increased security, a sense of belonging, personal status, self-actualization, curiosity, understanding cause-and-effect relationships, and a sense of order and aesthetics (Maslow, MP p2).  And because "in most persons, a single primary all-important motive is less often found than a combination in varying amounts of all motivations working simultaneously" (Maslow, MP p3), effective Leaders must learn to decipher how each inherent need motivates their Subordinates' behavior and determine to what degree the available motivational agents will stimulate higher performance and positively impact morale.  For "the outstanding fact regarding willingness to contribute to a given specific formal organization is the indefinitely large range of variation in its intensity among individuals….  A second fact of almost equal importance is that the willingness of any individual cannot be constant in degree….  [and, thirdly a] Willingness to cooperate, positive or negative, is the expression of the net satisfaction or dissatisfactions experienced or anticipated by each individual in comparison with those experienced or anticipated through alternative opportunities….  Hence, organizations depend upon the motives of individuals and the inducements that satisfy them" (Barnard, FE p84), combined with the Leader's artful interactive administration.


(C) Motivation itself is primarily an emotional energy that permeates an individual's behavior and mental attitude, and which is actuated by a combination of both cognitive thinking and feelings.  Leaders must therefore provide the catalyst for such thinking and excitement as they encourage their Subordinates to accept the organization's goals and decisions as their own.  And since one of the primary requisites to being a successful Leader is to have highly motivated followers; seeking a greater understanding of motivation and actually motivating Subordinates on a day-to-day, contact-to-contact basis should pervade every Leader's conscious thought or act.  For "human loyalty, enthusiasm, drive, commitment, acceptance of responsibility, and self-confidence are all emotional variables. …[as] are all the values 'we hold dear.'  [Consequently, Leaders must fully recognize that] motivation is an emotional force" (McGregor, LM p222); and that it is heavily influenced by one's feelings in addition to the hard, cold logic inherent to any supervisory situation.  Leaders must continually factor such feelings into their motivational analysis; for when the cause-and-effect relationships contributing to specific Subordinate behaviors cannot be logically deduced, it is more than likely that emotional issues are exerting a disproportionate influence.


(D) Paradoxically, a natural, conflicting, motivational element inherent to all Leader-Subordinate relationships is the instinctual desire of individuals to resist dependence upon others and to want to act independently.  For "to be dependent is to be limited in freedom, to be subject to influences which are frequently perceived as arbitrary and unjust" (McGregor, HSE p26), or not properly promoting the individual's self-interests.  Thus being dependent causes individuals to seek changes in their environment, to accentuate their security needs, or to curtail their interest in the objective depending upon their dissatisfaction with the circumstances.  Conversely, the more direct control individuals are able to exert over their own lives or work goals, the greater the risks that they are likely to incur, and the more profound affect that their personal decisions are likely to have on their future well-being.  As a result, nearly all individuals readily accept or perceive some degree of dependence (e.g., leadership, personal guidance, or advice) as also being beneficial.  And the expectation that an individual might exercise total control over his or her circumstances in the modern work environment is now generally accepted by the greater majority of workers as being wholly unrealistic given the increased efficiencies realized by task specialization in the production of goods and services.  Therefore, following the assumption that contentment or job satisfaction is proportional to the degree of influence or control individuals can exercise over their circumstances, Leaders who permit their Subordinates substantially greater involvement in the decision making process will have more highly motivated Subordinates than those who do not.


(E) As highly motivated individuals willingly expend a great deal of energy and personal resources in activities that fully stimulate their interest; as is evidenced by their enthusiasm and the degree of expertise they often acquire in pursuing their hobbies.  And while individuals may be highly constrained and exhibit only limited enterprise in their work environment, they will often demonstrate extraordinary initiative and creativity when involved in something they have a passion for and over which they can exercise significantly greater autonomy (e.g., charitable fund raising, renovating their house, building a boat, or fly-fishing).  Thus creating a work environment that stimulates an equally absorbing level of involvement is both the challenge and measure of success of the empowerment concept and all other motivational formulas.  (The author strongly recommends Hersey and Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behavior, chapters two and three, for a more comprehensive examination of human behavior and motivation).

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Copyright 2006 by H. Garrett Hayward from Face the Challenge: The Leader's Success Handbook