Over the last 20 years, I have helped the leaders of hundreds of organisations develop their people to achieve business growth goals and strategic outcomes. I am proud of the impact of a great deal of this work. But I have also been uncomfortable with some of the motivations and drivers behind what leaders wanted to achieve.
Why? Because motivation is important. Employees understand that leaders have certain motivations, and they react accordingly. If leaders are purely profit-driven, employees will react differently than to leaders who also want to develop their teams and take a more ‘holistic’ approach.
Leadership motivation has a direct impact on the culture of the organisation, the processes it uses and the messages it sends to the wider world – from clients to investors. When leaders are motivated by getting a huge bonus at the end of the year, for example, they are likely to drive their teams harder, make no allowances for individual concerns and operate a top-down authoritarian leadership style. Team members will disengage, lose motivation and often leave.
What’s more, the leader themselves will often burn out and struggle with their own mental and physical wellbeing.
On the other hand, if a leader wants to unleash creativity, improve quality and boost innovation, they are likely to be much more involved in the day-to-day running of the business. They will be part of delivering better client outcomes, be able to support new ideas and drive efficiencies that help to promote business growth.
Maybe now is a good time to reflect on what first motivated you to take on your leadership role or set up your own business. It’s always useful to have a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Write it down and consider why it was important to you. And then keep asking ‘why’ with each response – this will help you to uncover your underlying motivation – and you can harness this to start to do things differently in your business.
Smaller businesses are agile organisations, so leaders have the space and permission to be different – to be a business of the 21st century, not the 19th century.
I can tell you that when the sole purpose of your leadership is to make more profit, you can expect significant problems down the line. That’s because you forget what your organisation is really about, and you forget to put your customers – and your teams – first.
In turn, that will result in retention issues and affect your employer brand. You will struggle to find the best talent; your recruitment and training costs will increase and your productivity will reduce – everyone will be dissatisfied. And this is definitely something to avoid in the current economy with the skills gap.
Compare that with what could happen if you can accept and acknowledge that there’s an ethical responsibility that comes with any for your leadership role – a positive impact that you can have for your people. As a leader, the decisions you make affect your people, the environment around you and our wider world.
We have to recognise that this comes with significant responsibility and the best leaders are the ones who really acknowledge and embrace what that means and how they need to work on themselves to make sure they have the greatest impact they can have.
Working this way creates loyalty, creativity, innovation and motivation, and it is the foundation of sustainable and modern business growth. And that’s the point of your leadership.
We can help you take the first steps with our work on Authentic leadership, Leading without ego and Creating high performing teams. Book a call today to find out more.
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