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A Leader’s Best Friend: The Ability to Motivate

The Most Important Job of Every Leader

The most important job every leader has is to focus all of their energy and resources on one thing:

Getting the most out of their people.

Every leader is tasked with getting that extra 10% of effort from the people they lead. This is the heart of successful leadership.

To do this, you must, as a leader, know how to motivate.

Two Types of Leaders

Not every leader is capable of motivating others. There are really only two types of leaders when it comes to motivation:

  1. Those who can motivate
  2. Those who can't motivate (and do damage instead)

We've all met both.

Think about those you've known to be great motivators. Teachers, CEOs, coaches, parents, and ministers. They may be super intelligent, but often that isn't the case. What was more noteworthy about them was their ability to inspire you and others. They encouraged you to see more in yourself than you ever had before.

On the other hand, there are those who not only aren't good motivators, but they tend to bring the worst out of us and others. When we are around them, we feel clumsy and inept and find ourselves acting in negative ways that leave us confused later. Their "pep talks" turn into lectures, and although their intention was to inspire, they leave us feeling intimidated instead.

(Note to self: Don't be that person.)

Motivation Comes From Outside Ourself, Not Inside

There is one thing to know about motivation before we go any further that is completely FALSE. It's the notion that motivation primarily comes from within and that no one can be truly motivated.

This is garbage.

How do I know that? Think about any time that you were at your best — where did you get the inspiration to perform at such a high level? Was it purely your self-will and only your self-will? Or...was it in large part because of some external influence (e.g. a parent, coach, manager, etc.) who left you inspired?

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of self-motivating that you and I are capable of. However, the dispositions and bits of encouragement we give to ourselves didn't originate from ourselves — we learned them from others!

It is said that when Napoleon was on the battlefield, it was the equivalent of fighting against another 40,000 men. The truth is: we are greatly motivated by the right leader.

The Power of the Motivator

When France fell to Hitler in June 1940, all hope seemed to be lost for England and the entirety of Europe. To make matters worse, England was all alone and most predicted they would be completely taken over within a few weeks of the invasion.

Then steps in Winston Churchill. Churchill, 65 years old at the time, most well-known for his failures as a politician, was named Prime Minister on May 10 that year. What ensued the next 7 months of 1940 rested greatly on the ability of Churchill to breathe life back into a nation that was afraid and hopeless in the midst of an improbable victory.

How did Churchill do this? By rallying the people of England with incredible conviction and resolve in moments like this:

The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us on this island or lose the war...Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: "This was their finest hour."

The ability to motivate as a leader will be your greatest ally and best of friends in the moments that you need to galvanize your people to greater things the most.

Final Takeaways

Before wrapping up, there are a few points that should be mentioned about motivation:

  1. Motivation is not Manipulation. As Alan Loy McGinnis said, the difference is very clear: You are a manipulator when you try to persuade people to do something that is not in their best interest but only yours. You're a motivator when you find goals that are good for both parties. From there you develop a high-achieving, high-morale partnership to achieve them.
  2. Your success rests almost entirely on your ability to lead others. Whether it be in a career, your church, or vocation — it doesn't matter. It's common for people with a lot of technical knowledge or specialties to rise quickly and have early success in their careers. But once it comes time to lead, they get stuck and stop making progress because of their inability to multiply themselves in others. As Goethe said, "The greatest genius will not be worth much if he pretends to draw exclusively from his own resources."
  3. Effective motivation and inspiration are complicated. It's hard to say why some teams or groups of people jell and others don't. The same can be said about why some individuals are motivated more than others — it's not entirely clear and anyone who says they know why is trying to sell you something (don't buy it). There is no magical technique or secret hack to motivate others. Only time-tested principles.

This is why over the following weeks, we will dive deeper into some key principles that you can put into practice to motivate and inspire others — whether 1-on-1 or in group settings.