Motivation – A Transformational Leadership Skill

How many times have you awakened in the morning and did not want to go to work? But you went in anyway, not because you wanted to or had to, but because your commitment to the organizational goal and the leadership was important. That is the effect of transformational leadership, it motivates you not only to believe in the vision, but also to commit and stay the course until the goal has been attained. The ability to motivate, inspire, and coach followers to want to go the extra mile and find the energy to attain or maintain competitive advantage in this global economy is not an anomaly, but a necessity. Combine these characteristics with the ability to set a clear direction and create an organizational culture where everyone is aware of their contribution, and you have a recipe for success.

How do we define transformational leaders?

Over the last two decades there has been an emergence of a relatively new leadership theory known as “transformational” leadership. A transformational leader not only formulates and articulates a vision, he/she also delegates responsibility, assigns accountability and develops their followers. Researchers such as Titchy and Devanna identified transformational leadership as “when a leader transforms, or changes, his or her followers in three important ways that together result in followers trusting the leader, performing behaviors that contribute to the achievement of organizational goals”. Lewin’s study on leadership shows that this leadership style is the most practical, because the leader not only transforms the organization, but the followers and themselves. A Transformational leader offers guidance to followers, participates in the group as a follower and requests input from members, As a result, followers are more engaged in the process, better motivated and creative.

Shamir, House and Arthur in their article for the Journal of Organization Science concurs with Titchy and Devane, but adds that a transformational leader enhances follower emotions with respect to the vision and goal, instills an emotional attachment through trust and confidence in their leadership. Transformational leaders are leaders as well as colleagues that collaborate with their team and disseminate information and communicate feedback on a timely basis because their focus is on changing “the needs, values, preferences and aspirations of followers from self interests to collective interests”, continues Shamir, House and Arthur on the development of the different ways in which transformational leaders strive to refocus followers intrinsic motivation.

Motivation: What motivates people?

Motivation is a collection of learned attitudes and beliefs suggests Success Performance Solutions, a Consulting firm in Lancaster, PA. Or the manner in which an individual is driven towards a goal, what keeps one going even in the face of adversity, the reason one sticks to a leader or gives a little more to a project. Psychologists often refer to the motivators as the initiators of behavior because they give us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. They add depth and breadth to behaviors by providing insight into “why we do what we do.” While, most behavioral theories include motivation as a function of primary drives such as hunger, sex, sleep, or comfort. Weiner points out that behavioral theories tend to focus on either intrinsic (fundamental) or extrinsic (inessential) motivators which have also been associated with arousal, attention, anxiety, and feedback/reinforcement.

Motivation is commonly defined as getting people to do what you want them to do, either through persuasion (getting their cooperation) or incentive (monetary reward). There are a multitude of positive and negative motivators and it is a pivotal concept in most leadership theories. Traditionally, leaders use power as a form of motivation either through coercion or influence. Transactional leaders on the other hand use more than rewards to motivate employees. This leadership style is not a style that has a blame factor when goals are not attained or plans go wrong; rather this style is useful when leaders trust and have a high level of confidence in his/her followers.

Individuals and corporations use motivators for goal setting, leadership development and organizational culture. The incentives are seen in Ames and Ames’ cognitive theories which deal with intrinsic motivation such as goal-setting acts and goals (personal or organizational).

Studies indicate that motivators are flexible and vary depending on the structure and culture of the organization. As a result this allows employees to adapt to the motivational system of an organization. Alderfer’s ERG Theory, states that the motivation for achievement is a function of an individual’s self actualization.

The types of motivators (financial or status) are clearly defined by Hull’s drive reduction theory. Tolman states that an individual’s crucial drive is an intrinsic motivation creating an internal state such as wants or needs. The rewards and recognition (monetary and nonfinancial) persuade individuals to pursue their goals by aligning their personal goals with the goals of the organization. Transformational leaders need to be aware that, motivators are not only in the form of monetary rewards; they also encompass the goals that people want to attain including experience benefits, organizational position (title), and career opportunities such as coaching and mentoring. McClelland’s Theory explains that motivators are a reflection of personality characteristics that are acquired through experiences, expectancies, and achievements. Thus, as individuals grow and change, the motivators use by the leadership must also change in order to satisfy their needs and wants.

The fit: leadership style and organizational structure

William Quisenberry wrote in Helium that “Motivation is essentially described by the textbook as ‘the extent to which persistent effort is directed towards a goal.'” Essentially, it is important for leaders to understand the different forms and characteristic values of motivation theories, and how to properly implement them in their organization. He defines four approaches to motivation and their emphasis on management practice: paternalistic approach, scientific management approach, participative management, and the combination approach.

A leader will find him/herself instinctively switching between styles and motivators in accordance to not only the people but also the organization. This is often referred to as “situational leadership” indicates Gary Neilson and Bruce Pasternack of Booz Allen Hamilton, a global consulting firm. They continue that there is a reason some companies succeed and others do not and that the ability to achieve results is not an accident but the combination of the correct leadership style for the organizational structure and culture. The combination discussed motivation and behavior in work organizations, which includes; drives, needs, outcomes, satisfaction, extrinsic rewards, performance, and influences.

Results: the combination of a transformational leader and the right motives?

During their tenure leaders must confront one of the most important issues asking an important practical question, “What leadership style(s) work best for me and my organization?” The answer to this question lies in the understanding that there are many styles and theories to choose from. A major factor in leadership development is to consider developing a new leadership style which combines more than one style in order to deal with not only the culture, but also the high level of diversity of employees.

Followers do not automatically accept new leaders. One reason is the element of the unknown. There have been countless examples of leaders taking over a new organization or group and their failures because they did not take into account the current culture and needs of the people within the organization. Edward Liddy’s failure at AIG is one such example. He thought that the leadership style he had developed at Allstate could be transferred to AIG without any problems. It is not the easiest of tasks to expect individuals to be creative, improve work quality, perform as a team, work more with less and provide outstanding customer service; while not taking into account the right motivations for these people and the need for him as a leader to build trust, adapt his leadership style and overall transform the people and the organization toward a prosperous direction. Liddy assumed that he could take the helm of the organization and transform it without him changing or making any adaptation.

Although the Transformation Leadership approach is often highly effective, there is no “right” method that fits all situations. According to Booz Allen Hamilton in choosing the most effective approach one must consider:

o The skill levels and experience of the members of your team

o The work involved

o The organizational environment

Building consensus for change is easy; implementing these changes, however, is next to impossible without a compelling vision and mission from the top as well as a strong foundation of common values at the base. An organization headed by a transformational leader seems destined for greatness. It is a well balanced organization infused with the right motives from a leadership with the correct style tends to react quickly to market developments. And often long term global opportunities without losing sight of the big picture (the goals of both the organization and its people). Just-in-Time organizations, as they are tagged, can turn on a dime because the leadership inspires creative outbursts, innovative processes and maintains competitive advantage due to the fact that everyone knows his or her role and implements it diligently in this organization, creating the overall effect of flawless effectiveness and consistent execution.

“The right people-imbued with the right values, armed with the right information, and motivated by the right incentives-are the driving force behind a winning organization” states Neilson and Pasternack. The challenge for leaders has always been to align all of these factors so that individual self-interests are in accord with the organization’s goals; otherwise, you will never get out of that bed and get to work.

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