Leadership Series #7: Motivation

What gets you up and going in the morning?


A special project?


A commitment?

Something else?

This morning my youngest was up and out before 6 a.m.! He was going to see visit his girlfriend at college. His motivation to go was obvious. He wanted to see her. When I looked at my watch, after the door shut, it read 5:54 a.m. . We did not wake him up or remind him to go. He was motivated, so it did it all on his own. That’s what responsible adults do, right?!

The early time of the day reminded me of when our oldest son was in high school and belonged to two jazz bands. One met early in the morning – at 6 a.m. – he, also, was up and out without our influence or reminder. He wanted to be there. And, so he was! That was ten years ago!

Our middle son, now at college, recently had a job where he was responsible for opening a convenience store at 4 a.m.. Luckily, the store was close. So, he could leave the house at 3:45 a.m. and be there to open before four. Like his brothers, he had no problems with the early morning commitment. And, he’s more like me – more of a night owl and less of a morning person. Still, he was motivated to do a good job at work, especially because he was given this extra responsibility. They valued him and the trust they showed in his maturity and ability showed. He lived up to that trust.

Motivation is considered a personality trait. Some of us are intrinsically motivated. This means that the drive to accomplish things comes from within. Others are extrinsically motivated. This means that there is an outside reward or reason driving the need to accomplish. If you think about it, you probably know which drives your motivation.

I know I am intrinsically motivated. I taught an after school group for 13 years without pay or recognition. The students, their interest and desire to learn, which could be considered an external motivation, kept me going. But, more than that, inside me was a desire to teach about the environment and I found a way to satisfy that need.

Of course, motivation can wax and wane. We all experience times that we are tired, have less energy, or something else has kept us from our task. But, having motivation is an important asset. It helps to accomplish many things in life. If we are striving for self-improvement, being intrinsically motivated is important. Take my recent diet, for instance. No one told me to loose weight and no one is watching what I eat. I see progress on the scale, which could be considered an external reward. But, ultimately, I stay motivated because I feel better and can see the bodily changes brought about by my diet.

Last spring, I noticed that motivation to complete school work in an excellent fashion was diminished by the change to a pass/fail grade for the final term of the academic year. The term before (January – March) for my soon to graduate senior was still met with zest, commitment, and motivation for excellence. Grades were still accumulated and assigned at the end of the marking period. But, under the guise of equity, our students were told (they were not given a choice) that fourth term their classes were going to be pass/fail. I saw a change in motivation in my senior. Why go all out when the outcome would be the same? His desire to accomplish was diminished. In hind sight, it really did not matter. Teachers did keep track of grades and he would have had an A+, A, and B+ for the term but his motivation suffered. I wonder how many other students experienced this same effect when the grading system changed.

And, have you ever experienced lack of motivation because you know how you will be received? I am speaking to the work environment. I am a naturally intense, intelligent, and passionate person. When I commit to a task, job, or relationship, I give my all (sometimes, too much). I am motivated to the best at whatever I do. But, when constantly met criticisms, questions, and a lack of support – confidence is crushed and a lack of motivation to continue producing at the same high quality level ensues. You begin to question yourself. Confidence and motivation seem to be good bedfellows.

Motivation was defined in an article by Kendra Cherry (2020) on VeryWell Mind as “… the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. It is what causes you to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.” It’s been widely discussed, theorized, and analyzed over many decades. The process is probably as individual as all of us are. Therefore, it is not always easily understood.

But, when the door closes at 5:54 a.m., you know there’s motivation!

And, that’s a good thing!

For my other posts on Leadership, you can click on the following links:

What is Leadership?

Qualities of Leadership: Being Inspirational

Qualities of Leadership Series #2: Resilience

Qualities of Leadership Series #3: Integrity

Qualities of Leadership Series #4: Transparency

Leadership Series: How do you teach modesty?

Qualities of Leadership #5: Communication

Qualities of Leadership #6: The Best Boss Ever

2 thoughts

  1. I think I’m mainly intrinsically motivated too. When I don’t believe in a thing, I often find it hard to get it done. But I guess there must be a balance between the two? I mean, who believes in doing the dishes for instance 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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