LEADERSHIP and motivation are inseparable. If we feel highly motivated, either we have a “boss” who leads effectively or we are leading ourselves effectively. If those who work for us are highly motivated, we are probably an effective leader.
How we interact with others can have a positive or negative impact on their motivation. All parents are a leader of their children. Teachers are leaders of their class.
At work, the team manager is a leader and, in sports, the captain is a leader of the team and the coach is the leader of individual players. The salesperson leads the customer. The common denominator for all of these leaders is how well they motivate those with whom they interact, supervise or serve. Motivation is truly the key to successful leadership.
What is motivation?
The term motivation comes from the Latin word “movere”, which means to move or moving. Motivation has to do with our internal drives or energy forces.
Needs and motives
What produces our behaviour — including natural or innate drives or instincts —are our needs. Such reasons for behaviour, that is, purpose, are often called “motives”. We can conclude that behaviour is caused, it does not just happen, there has to be a need, reason or purpose and, when felt, it becomes a drive.
Some behaviour may be instinctive, and operate at a non-conscious level, but others can be consciously directed or controlled. They can be cognitive and thought out (cerebral), or they can be driven by emotions unconsciously (limbic).
Motives are the reasons, purpose or intentions of the behaviour — once the needs or drives have been recognised or felt. Primary needs and drives are largely instinctive and non-conscious. While some motives may also operate at the non-conscious level, most are conscious, pre-planned and deliberate. Leaders must therefore learn to recognise, which needs or drives or motives are instinctive or non-conscious and which are conscious.
Needs can be divided into primary or secondary. Primary needs are natural and unlearned and are necessary for survival. These include the need for oxygen, nutrition, liquid, protection from excess temperatures and pain. They include biological needs such as maternal needs in women.
There are also social needs, such as to belong to or be accepted by other human groups.
By nature, man is a social and gregarious animal. An additional social need is for influence, control or to dominate others. This is often called our power need. Along with the affiliative or belonging needs, these power needs may be strong or weak. They differ from person to person, but are essentially unlearned and mainly innate. These are among the genetic influences that are often labelled as “personality traits”.
Secondary needs, on the other hand, are learned and are socio-cultural rather than biological. They have to do with ego, status and esteem. They include those that are often expressed as values.
Here we learn about moral codes of behaviour and the need to conform or be treated with respect and dignity. They are called secondary because we can survive without them being satisfied, but we may not feel so motivated, happy or successful.
In study after study on job satisfaction, we find people differ in their level of work satisfaction.
What satisfies one person may not satisfy another. It again depends on the diversity of the employee needs. Although there are common satisfiers, their priority of order may differ from person to person.
Let us assume equity, vis-a-vis, job, or person exists, but individuals have some similar and some different needs. Similar ones will include the basic instinctive biological or physiological needs and drives shown earlier. The different needs will depend upon a person’s age, talent level, personality, socio-economic status or qualifications etc.
What is important is how they differ culturally, ethnically, socially and individually — in terms of personality, age, marital and economic status. But also they can differ between team members and their leader.
While some are very important to the lower paid group, they may be the same for the highly paid group. Yes, there are some cause-effect relationships, and several are interdependent. For example, a good boss and peer relationships should contribute to job satisfaction. What are significant are the differences in the perception of what the boss has about the employee and reality.
Does high job satisfaction lead to high performance? Are happy people more productive? Research shows there is no guarantee of this. Happy employees can be lazy but not necessarily motivated to be productive. One classic study showed only a 17 correlation between job satisfaction and performance.
What is really interesting is that a sort of “reverse” situation occurs. High performance which produces results, leads to high job satisfaction and increases motivation. “Productive people are happy, rather than happy people being productive”.
We cannot redesign people — at least the mature adult that comprises most employees. By the time we are in our early adulthood, our brain is fully matured and our personality is pretty well fixed. What we can do though is to redesign the job that we are assigning to an employee, as it is too late to “redesign” the employee!
Robert Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or +263 772 466 925.