Motivation: Critical to Leadership Development

In my last post I introduced four keys to effective leadership development.

  1. The willingness to try new approaches
  2. The motivation of the manager
  3. The safety the manager feels when trying new approaches, and
  4. Determining what success looks like


Managers must want to change. This change may be a desire to become a better leader for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, the desire is for more influence. Many describe this desire as power. And power, inappropriately applied can be manipulative.

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. 1

The desire for impact or power must be with the purest motivation. The manager who wants to develop their skills must lean into empathy. Empathy is the single biggest skill used by the emotionally intelligent leader. Listening to subordinates creates an environment of trust. A manager can begin with a four word statement, “What do you think?” This leads to involvement, participation and, if practiced long enough, will lead to collaboration. A leader who creates an environment of collaboration communicates value to their subordinates. In the long run, this approach will lead to better results and team unity.

Unfortunately, this approach takes longer. It also assumes the boss has some level of humility and teachability. To obtain the best results in any organization leaders must become servants to their teams. We must provide the right resources and remove obstacles for subordinates. Leaders of a team are merely different players with a different position.

What Is Your Vision of Leadership

When you look back on your career, what do you want to remember? What is your vision of your working career? Does it include growing people? Laughter? Tears? Friendship? Now I know much of this seems too touchy feely, but your career should be more than great results and big bonuses.

Rarely do strong leaders use their position as a basis of power. Rather, they use their influence. Jim Collins refers to these type of leaders as Level 5 executives.

Level 5 executives build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. Leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. 2

They succeed when others in the organization succeed. Great companies are great because there is great alignment around a common vision. Commitment to a plan is gained by allowing people the opportunity to provide input. They choose to be part of something greater than themselves. Successful leaders must be motivated with the purest motivation.

For more on this check out my newest workbook

Sir John Acton

2. Good to Great, pages 20,21. slightly modified