Here’s a great quote that speaks to the true nature of good leadership:
Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
The key here is “because he wants to do it.” This is called intrinsic motivation, and it’s the only type of motivation that works reliably and in the long term.
Companies who practice this find that they no longer need to struggle to motivate people and light their fire – people motivate themselves. They approach work with zest, creativity and energy because what they want to do matches what the company wants them to do.
You don’t need to whip them with an endless succession of bonuses, prizes, thinly veiled threats, cheap corporate tchotchkies or meaningless awards to get them to perform. And anyway, there’s no way any of that can ever match the results people create when they’re simply happy at work.
Peter Block and Peter Koestenbaum put it like this in their excellent book Freedom and accountability at work:
We currently act as if people are not inherently motivated, rather that they go to work each day and wait for someone else to light their fire.
This belief is common among managers and employees alike…
It is right and human for managers to care about the motivation and morale of their people, it is just that they are not the cause of it.
True motivation can only come from inside yourself – in life and at work. Goals that others set up for you, with no regard for your wishes can never truly motivate, no matter what punishments or rewards are held up before you.
So: What motivates you at work? What tasks do you approach with relish? What parts of your work fill you with energy and a natural desire to do a great job? Please write a comment, I’d really like to know.
I previously explored motivation here: