Motivation is a personal responsibility
Motivation is an impressive, irrepressible and unquestionable factor in success. Clearly, when an individual is motivated, he or she achieves goals with relative ease, establishes personal records, and in turn, becomes a strong positive influence on others.
When a group is motivated, be it a business division, an athletic team or even a family, its achievements will be nothing short of heroic: obliterating previous benchmarks while collectively lifting individual performances by virtue of momentum, focus and spirit.
The question that is not easy to answer is who is responsible for providing motivation: the individual or the leader?
This question triggers countless debates in management and coaching circles. Are teachers, managers, coaches and parents accountable for creating and handing out the essential get-up-and-go? Or is the “mojo” something only the individual can provide?
I’m often accused of being a great motivational speaker … and I don’t believe that statement could be further from the truth.
Perhaps there are certain concepts, certain observations and certain words that I use which trigger you-can-do this feelings. But I believe true motivation, that indispensable gonna-get-this-done drive which leads to long-term success, has to come from the individual. That crucial component of the winning drive cannot come from me or any outside source.
It’s been my experience in business, athletics and at home, that the motivation needed to overcome obstacles where and when others fail is something that’s inside each of us and only needs to be awakened by a stimulus.
Individual motivation starts when each of us determines our respective strengths and finds our individual sweet spot of talent, drive and knowledge coming together. Once we’re able to divine that bulls-eye, our purpose connects with our passion and personal motivation becomes the great equalizer.
Let me say it another way: your level of motivation is in direct proportion to the pleasure you receive from whatever you do. So if you don’t love what you do, or if you haven’t found your sweet spot yet, you just won’t be very good at it.
Mike Kelly, retired football coach at the University of Dayton, shared with me that he realized early in his career that his success in non-scholarship football would be totally dependent on recruiting highly motivated young men. Kelly’s formula for success was simple: recruit highly motivated young men and teach them how to play football.
So if it’s not leaders’ responsibility to motivate employees, athletes, children, students, friends, what is their half of the relationship? The leader needs to care about their people.
I’m fortunate in that I get to meet with and listen to some of the world’s thought leaders. A couple of years ago, Bob Quinn, author and lecturer form the University of Michigan, commented that transformative leaders of today are both enormously demanding and enormously caring.
His observation struck a nerve with me simply because I believe far too many leaders of today have the demanding part down but when it comes to the caring element they shy away because they believe it exposes their vulnerability.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, what it really exposes is their human side, their uniqueness as an individual. Any time you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, you did it with your heart, not your head.
If you share my belief that the caring quotient truly defines the special people in our lives, what is the one thing they all had in common? They provided our greatest inspiration.
To properly ground this discussion, allow me to offer my definition of inspiration: Those people who have convinced us that we could be more than we could be and have taken us to places we never thought we could go. It’s those people who believed in us more than we believed in ourselves. Or say it another way, they have lit the fuse of what motivates us.
Exemplary leaders care about others. This inspires people. This caring is the spark.
When the spark of caring touches the tinder inside others (that is, the personal motivation) amazing things happen. We all have deep within us the need to be loved and respected and we only become more human as leaders when we learn to love and serve others.
Motivation is a personal responsibility while inspiration is the responsibility of leaders. This is the magic of all relationships.
Pete Luongo is retired president and CEO of The Berry Co., executive director of the Center for Leadership and Executive Development at the University of Dayton, author of “10 Truths About Leadership … It’s Not Just About Winning” and a public speaker. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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