New Thinking Leadership and Motivation

By   /  3 August 2010  /  Comments Off on New Thinking Leadership and Motivation


Motivation: What’s New, Navigating the Complexity?

Great leaders understand that its not easy to translate vision into reality. And they realise they can’t do it alone. The most effective leaders are those who seek out what they and their company need. That kind of growth mindset is ageless.

Leadership and Motivation are areas that we would all agree have a significant impact on organisational performance. Having said this, which leadership model should we use of the 80 or so currently available, stemming back as far as the Big Man Theories and the latest on Emotional Intelligence. Not leaving out the myriad of other habits and models currently being sold to us through extensive publications and books.

We might argue that the Leadership and Motivating market has become somewhat swamped with ideas, models, styles and approaches, so let’s take a look at something which links together these two important contributing areas in performance with some new ideas.

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The classic models, imply that motivation can be driven by our own needs, those models (Self Actualization) of Adler, Maslow Hertzberg and Rogers.

Secondly, we have those models driven by Aspirational Needs, Lewin, Vroom, Porter and Lawler and the Work Preferences Model.

Thirdly, we have the Innate Need to Achieve from Murray, McClelland and Atkinson, Weiner, Rosenberg and Rotter.

None of us would disagree with the fundamental basis of the thinking behind these approaches and neither would we disagree with the importance of Leadership experience in the equation and its application in realising a motivated workforce.

The problem with these models (in my view) is that the above tend to approach motivation from a single dimensional point of view. That is, what we do to people to motivate them and even more important to us previously was the level of in built drive of those individuals to achieve, or our preoccupation with how to get drive inbuilt.

We have approached this in numerous ways namely by adopting a Leadership Style which falls within that which we are familiar with. Reward – Punishment, Dogmatic Flexible, Centralized, – De-Centralized, Task – People, Organic – Structured, The Means – The End. Latterly we have even succumbed to other models like embedding habits in our style and which lever performance, and not leaving out EQ (the Emotional Quantum) or Emotional Intelligence as we all know it.

All of these have a valuable contribution to make to a leadership approach. The problem for me is that they rely on doing to another or creating an environment in which it will flourish. They all fail at a fundamental level to realize that people do not sit within a box that we can motivate using one, two or three approaches, basically because we have lost sight of the individual being exactly that, an individual, and we have made some serious errors of judgement in that we assume that people are consistent over a given time period (as psychometric testing would have us believe).

Psychometrics adopt two approaches to measurement the nomothetic measurement – The term “nomothetic” comes from the Greek word “nomos” meaning “law”. Psychologists who adopt this approach are mainly concerned with studying what we share with others. That is to say in establishing laws or generalizations). The Ideographic approach (The term “idiographic” comes from the Greek word “idios” meaning “own” or “private”). Psychologists interested in this aspect of experience want to discover what makes each of us unique.

I also don’t want to get involved in the scientific debate on the merits of one or the other as both have something valuable to offer, but the question to me is how do you take uniqueness and sometimes inconsistency and acknowledge it in motivation and leadership and then measure it and improve the business. If we ignore uniqueness in favour of generalizing then we might overlook something very important.

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Motivation the New:

To start with we need to take a fresh look at some of the very latest thinking involved with acknowledging that people do have a dominance or leaning to one approach or another, but additionally humans flex depending on a number of variables, the environment they are exposed to and their emotional state are but two.

So let us take a look at the Reversal Model in Motivation and then apply it to Leadership. The reversal model has identified (through extensive research) that we adopt one of eight motivational states (states are different than types or traits as they are associated with emotions). Of these eight states (or eight ways of being) the research has shown that there are poles (like the North and South Pole) that we alternate between so we end up with four pairs of alternating motivational states.

Understanding ourselves is the key to many things. It unlocks the secrets of why we do what we do. It illuminates our impact on others. It reveals the impetus behind the choices we make. Similarly, understanding others is central to a successful life: developing tolerance, influence, mutuality and other key facets of effective relationships of which the leadership approach is a critical factor.

We all recognize that it is the nature of human beings to be complex and inconsistent, the key insight into the Reversal Model is the idea that our experience is shaped by a set of alternative ways of seeing the world. Specifically, there are four pairs of opposite states and we ‘reverse’ between these opposites in the course of everyday life. Therein lays the key to understanding our contradictory nature.

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The Fundamentals of the Research:

We are inconsistent and changing, reacting to the same thing in different ways on different occasions, depending upon our state of mind.

It is this state of mind that motivates us to act, react and feel in different ways.

We can organise these states into a framework to help us understand ourselves and others

There are 8 motivational states, 8 ways of being organised into 4 pairs of opposites, each pair making up a domain.

We are in four of eight states at any given moment – one state from each pair.

Over time, everyone experiences all states, although we differ in the amount of time we spend in each motivational state.

We should seek motivational diversity, that is, to spend sufficient time in all eight states and not get “stuck” in any particular one.

What do the States Imply?

Pair One – Dimension Domain Means/Ends:

Serious = Basic Motive: Achievement

Playful = Basic Motive: Enjoyment

Pair Two – Dimension Domain Rules:

Conforming = Basic Motive: Fitting in

Rebellious = Basic Motive: Freedom

Pair Three – Dimension Domain Interaction:

Mastery = Basic Motive: Control and Power

Sympathy = Basic Motive: Affection and Caring

Pair Four – Dimension Domain Orientation:

Self-Orientated = Basic Motivation: Individualism

Other-Orientated = Basic Motivation: Collectivism

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Motivation Leadership:

Now that we have a clearer understanding that people are inconsistent in life and work and the research has guided us into identifying the main motivational variables and pairing them into domains, then we need to know if there is a way of assessing this, training people to understand the principles and applying this in Leadership with the idea of improving training investment and learning, competence attainment, teamwork and organisational change and cultural improvement.

As we have new innovative evidence based approach to motivation, we can also have a new and innovative Leadership Development Assessment methodology based on the Reversal Model which can apply this new thinking in managing and creating a climate for high performance (if we know what makes them tick then we can create a climate that makes them tick better).

We are as I mentioned above, probably all aware of the many leadership models which have emerged in the last century, from the early Great Man theories to the later Transformational and Transactional Leadership thinking and the many other derivatives that have come and gone over the last 80 years.

What organisations and early assessment systems have not been good at, are predicting the working climate team members will experience when working with, or for, a particular leader and in developing their leaders in creating a climate for high performance.

Leadership is best understood and developed when we understand the impact it has upon the performance of others (we don’t do leadership to others – the principles are designed to have a profound effect the one of improvement). As a leader what is it like to be around you? If Leadership is about generating high performance in others, a leader needs to be clear about what influences this process.

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Performance can be viewed as an equation with three inter-connected factors:


One factor in Performance (P) has to be the Ability (A) or competence of those involved. However, ability alone does not guarantee great performance. The Mindset (M) of those involved is a second critical factor – in terms of motivation,confidence and awareness. These first two factors reside in the individual. But it is also important that leaders pay attention to the context in which people operate. It is easy to imagine a situation in which people have the ability and are highly motivated to do something but are unable to do so because they do not have the Opportunity (O). An example of this is the Leader who is dominated by Means Ends Serious (Controlling the Environment and Others) and focused on Achievement, although great in small bursts if you were constantly working for this type your motivation would drain away very quickly.

Opportunity is a mix of overt factors such as process, structures and strategies, but also less obvious factors such as culture and climate. In fact research from many sources has shown that climate influences individual and organisational performance more than any other factor. Opportunity as a factor in performance is a like an iceberg. It is the parts that are hard to see that matter the most, the 30% above water (strategies, processes and structures etc) and the other 70% below the water (climate). Let us refer to the below water line as the Titanic Effect – we all know that what sank the Titanic was the iceberg below the waterline.

Leaders need to consider all aspects of the performance equation P=A+M+O and the way they interact, but the Reversal Model suggests that a leader should focus on Producing a Climate that Positively Impacts on the Mindset of Others.

Jasper Global Corporation

Leadership Neutralisers:

Much research is available to the market place and with it the many leadership models concepts and methodologies. But one note of caution to be aware of when spending your valuable training budget and that is that leadership can be prevented from being effective. This thwarting of leadership effectiveness is known as LEADERSHIP NEUTRALISERS and no matter how much you spend each year from your training budget on Management and Leadership development, if the internal corporate climate neutralizes your efforts then performance improvement from all of this investment in your organization is nothing more than a myth.

Remember though that Managers and Leaders create the climate people work in and this is one reason why from department to department there is evidence of such a variation in performance effectiveness. Understanding assessing and applying the new knowledge of the Reversal Model both in Developing Staff Awareness of Reversal Motivation and Leaders Reversal Motivation can have a significant impact on the overall performance of your organisation.

Dr Marshall Potts

Jasper Global Corporation

Jasper Global Corporation

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