Elevating Leadership Series: Leadership & Motivation

Motivation isn’t rocket science – so, I’ll keep this short.

If your operations are a car, then motivation is the fuel. If your operations are a sports car, you don’t want to put 87 octane in the V12 engine.

Imagine your organization is a sports car cruising down the highway. The car is state-of-the-art and pristine. The leather is smooth and soft and the audio system crisp and clear – a real work of art. Suddenly, the engine sputters, and a Christmas tree of lights explodes on the instrument panel, before the motive power of the engine is greatly reduced. You turn the wheel to angle the vehicle for the shoulder and notice the power steering is no longer powered and the RPM gauge is no longer registering. As the car coasts to a safe stop on the side of the road, you troubleshoot and realize that you’ve run out of gas — your car has completely lost motivation.

Spoiler alert: I purposely used the word “motive” to illustrate the relationship between my analogy and motivation. I know, I know I couldn’t have been more on the nose. Don’t lose me, though.

In so few words, motivation is the fuel of your organization. Without motivation, your organization is nothing more than a state-of-the-art vehicle on a one-way trip to nowheresville. Motivation comes in two flavors: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic is the motivation that generated externally while intrinsic motivation that which individuals carry inside themselves. If you ask me which of the two is better, I will support intrinsic motivation from the door. However, we, as leaders, must recognize that we are just as responsible for keeping our organization’s motivation reserves full as we are in keeping the fuel tanks full as the driver of the car in our analogy. By consistently providing motivation, we habituate and enculturate it. Our personnel internalize it, and internalization will transform extrinsic motivation into intrinsic. There isn’t much that personnel with a fire burning on the inside can’t achieve.

Daniel Pink, who has an interesting video on YouTube titled “The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” suggests that motivation is governed by three components: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy increases motivation by offering subordinates more freedom to execute and complete their duties. With fewer restrictions, they are able to optimize their own capabilities to be most productive. Mastery suggests that motivation increases with self-efficacy. In effect, the more capable a subordinate becomes, the more motivated they are going to be. Finally, purpose increases motivation by offering direction and vision. More on purpose in the next entry. In the meantime, check out Mr. Pink’s video – it’s great.

How can you, then, as a leader, increase motivation by increasing autonomy, mastery, and purpose of your subordinates?

I will leave you with this: Avoid building motivation through transactional means such as more money, time off, or a bigger office. Don’t motivate your personnel by reaching for their wallets, instead reach for their hearts.


Pink, Daniel. (2014, January 17). The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. [Vido File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUWGHTiKr8Y.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: