As a Leader, shall I motivate people?

“The wise leader is not collecting a string of successes. The leader is helping others to find their own success” “No one can tell you what to do. That is your freedom”
Lao Tzu
I have worked for more than 25 years with leaders and corporate people. Many times, I have been confronted to this belief that Leaders are responsible for motivating their employees. I want to challenge this statement.

People are sovereign individuals and responsible for their own choices and life. Nobody can pretend to be willing for other people. I like this quote from  Dwight D. Eisenhower “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

The question is: as a leader, am I responsible for people motivation or am I responsible for creating the environment that drives people to choose to be on board?

To want other to be what you want them to be is a way to deny their sovereignty. Each individual has the choice to become a follower or not. My job as a leader is to create appealing conditions that may attract people to follow me. But , by the way, what are these conditions?

Let’s have  a look on what Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones  say in their article Should anyone be led by you ? (HBR)

“We all know that leaders need vision and energy. But to be inspirational, leaders  need four other qualities. Probably not what you’d expect, these qualities can be honed by almost anyone willing to dig deeply into their true selves. Inspirational leaders also share four unexpected qualities:

  • They selectively show their weaknesses: by exposing some vulnerability, they reveal their approachability and humanity.
  • They rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions. Their ability to collect and interpret soft data helps them know just when and how to act.
  • They manage employees with something we call tough empathy. Inspirational leaders empathize passionately-and-realistically-with people, and they care intensely about the work employees do.
  • They reveal their differences. They capitalize on what’s unique about themselves”

So, who you are as a leader seems to be critical in developing followers.

In other words; I would say that what makes the difference is some main qualities that successful leaders have:

  • The courage to follow their vision independently of the circumstances.
  • Humility to recognize they can’t be successful without others
  • The ability to give and especially in helping their people to grow

This last one is critical as it is where leaders recognize the sovereignty of their followers in acknowledging their inner power to be responsible for their own choices and their willingness to contribute.

Motivation  is the choice and responsibility of the follower, creating an appealing and inspiring environment is the responsibility of the leader. It is where the “Beauty” of the success of an organization stands.

By Edith Samouillet,

President of Turning points journey, Denver USA