This week I need to give an online lecture for MBA students on leadership and motivation.
When receiving the briefing, I noticed that the angle chosen was primarily through the leader’s eyes.
Given the name of the topic, not really a surprise.
As I reflected on the topic a bit more, something kept nagging me in the back of my head.
It felt like motivating people is the responsibility of the leader alone.
As if there’s nothing else we can do when our leaders feel to motivate us.
Don’t get me wrong.
I believe it’s a leaders’ responsibility to create an environment where people feel safe to be who they are.
A place where people can bring their best and whole self to work.
It’s not like we don’t have a choice when that environment is not present.
We always have a choice to leave the leader and the company.
So, what about our own intrinsic motivation?
It’s easy to immediately complain about a leader failing to motivate us.
But do we know what drives us in the first place?
Yes, I know, money is an essential factor for many of us.
Having worked in countries where income is not up to western standards, I realize that their monthly paycheck is a matter of survival for many people.
I’m not judging here the decision many people make daily to stay in a job because they need the money.
As long as they have made a conscious decision and know what drives them.
Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, addresses the question of what truly motivates us.
He states that three distinctive factors drive and motivate us: purpose, autonomy, and mastery.
Purpose is the reason why we’re doing the work we’re doing.
Autonomy is the degree of independence we feel to do our work.
Mastery is the satisfaction we feel when we continuously practice, learn, grow ourselves, and master the skill we love.
I leverage these factors as a checklist when I consider a new assignment:
Is there a purpose that fits with who I am and what I want from the work I’m doing?
Can I do my job the way I think I perform best? Within the broader context.
Will I learn and grow myself?
That’s the responsibility I demand from myself when I decide to join, stay, or leave an assignment.
If those conditions are not met, I need to make sure I address them.
With the leader, I work with. And with myself. That’s the ownership I have.
Now let’s flip it back to the leader.
What’s her or his ownership here?
As a leader, you’re expected to hire and develop people whose purpose matches the purpose of the company you serve.
As a leader, you’re expected to provide people with a safe and inspiring work environment where people feel a degree of autonomy in the work they’re doing.
As a leader, you’re expected to help people grow and develop themselves, let them practice and make mistakes, learn from them and become a master of the skill required to do the job.
If you can provide this environment as a leader, your people will be motivated.
Do more of what makes you happy.