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Motivation determines our performance as leaders. This applies to our own motivational drive (the “me” factor) as well as the motivational drive of those around us.
In a discussion recently with Themba Baloyi of Discovery Insure we shared the conviction that passion is the core of personal motivation and performance.
We discussed the principle that people with passion for what they do, do not “retire”.
They simply persist in doing what they feel passionate about.
Incentive, drive, inspiration and enthusiasm are all synonyms of motivation.
People’s motivational drives are a lot like electricity. Most of us do not understand what electricity is, yet we are able to harness its tremendous power in almost all facets of modern life. The same applies to the dynamics of motivation.
For a leader to try to understand motivation from an academic point of view can sometimes be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
There are a multitude of motivational theories and this can be confusing. It is difficult and perhaps impossible to obtain a full understanding of the incredible motivational drives of the human spirit.
Leaders want to master principles and processes that work and do not necessarily want to be tied down by conflicting theories of motivation.
If leaders waited until they obtained perfect knowledge of human nature, they might experience paralysis.
Our experience confirms that leadership is a profession of its own. Being a psychologist does not necessarily mean being a good leader, in much the same way that being a professional accountant or engineer or a having an MBA does not make you a good leader.
Leadership motivation is similar to the usage of electricity. We do not have to fully understand what it is to use it effectively.
We have sat down with many successful leaders at different levels and they may differ sharply in terms of their theories of motivation. But what they often have in common is a positive attitude and belief towards personal motivation as well as the motivation of others around them.
Good leaders do not wait to act until they have a “sure” understanding of situations, people, choices, obstacles or movement. They act on belief in self, others around them and in universal principles or values.
From a leadership perspective relating to motivation we may benefit by pondering three supporting concepts: instinct motivation, reactive motivation, and pro-active motivation.
Instinct motivation – All of us are endowed with instincts or drives that generate our motivations. Whether we understand these “instincts” is not necessarily the point.
Great leaders are invariably passionately motivated and they do not necessarily worry too much about the psychological theories behind their motivation.
The instincts that drive us can be portrayed in different terminologies, but from a leadership perspective it helps to understand that all of us are driven by basic drives or instincts, whether we understand them or not.
This is a fact of life.
The truth is that vast motivational powers are tied up in each “me” in spite of differences in culture and backgrounds.
Every day we have thousands of examples of passionately driven people performing the impossible. How many of them really understand motivational theory?
Good leaders grasp intuitively that the “me” instinct in people is supported by instincts to possess, to belong, to move (process) and to multiply in some form or other.
These instincts manifest in different ways in all of us. To some their desire or instinct to belong may lead them to sordid associations in criminal gangs or vicious, immoral or fraudulent practices.
In others it manifests as the passion to belong with those who bring positive movement in life, in healthy family life, and with organisations that are driven by positive values.
Our instinct to possess is often interpreted in terms of physical possessions and having a “fat cat” status where “greed is good”. But the possession of spiritual, mental and emotional talents that bring out the divine potential in all of us is of far greater significance.
We have an instinct to choose and our choices ultimately determine what kind of “me” is created.
This could vary from the one extreme of a selfish and self-indulgent “me” to the other end of the line – a sharing, respecting and performing leader who is driven passionately by positive values and moves barriers to potential in self and others.
Jesus is a prime example of this to many of us. The examples of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi portray that kind of leadership.
Our choices give us power to reach unlimited heights, or give us the power to become evil or something in between. Our instincts are born with us and they are the core of our motivations in life.
Our choices nudge us into two motivational categories: reactive or pro-active motivation.
Reactive motivation – Many of our actions in life are reactive by nature. These reactions may be of a positive or a negative nature and are driven by our believed values.
However, people who are mainly driven by reactive motivations may be situational prisoners. They are mentally and emotionally imprisoned by factors they consider “outside of their control”.
Reactive motivation is often a manifestation of negative perceptions of who or what we are.
Proactive motivation – Proactive motivation is what drives a leader who is committed to a positive attitude, belief in self, belief in those around him and in universal principles (and values), and with the courage to do the right thing.
Trust in universal principles, and behavioural models that deliver positive results, are the basis of leadership motivation.
Insight into universal principles also strengthens our proactive motivational ability. The proactive leader is proactive in spite of negative situational influences.
Our challenge in life is not a lack of motivational sources. We all have much the same kind of motivational pool to draw from.
Our challenge as leaders is the degree to which our believed values are integrated and the extent to which we respect the dignity and potential of others around us.
In reality, our positive and negative values are in a constant state of war in our inner being. This results in high levels of frustrations, fears, doubts that may also express themselves in arrogance and misuse of personal power.
A person at war with him- or herself cannot fully draw upon the capacity of the motivational pool that all of us have access to. A lack of positive motivation is often indicative of conflicting values.
I suspect that we will discover one day that we all had more or less fair access to motivation drives. Our attitudes and beliefs are what differentiate our motivations.