Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Employee Motivation and Leadership Style

Volume: January 2011

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


There are a host of leadership theories that exist. Heck, every time a dissertation on leadership is written some new fangled slant on leadership takes shape. While the science of management is fairly straightforward, the art of leadership can be complicated. As such, we here at Leadership Simplified seek to cut through the kudzu and deliver pragmatic advice on how to effectively lead your team and deliver solid results for your organization in the process.  


Employee motivation is a topic that frequently comes up when discussions about leadership take place. There are two camps regarding motivation. The first centers on how leaders motivate team members. The second states that motivation comes from within us. Now certainly the leader’s actions and behaviors influence the behavior and results of subordinates, however, I believe core motivation is derived from the makeup of an individual. Perhaps the topic of motivation is a matter of semantics. In my view, leaders should focus on their own behavior, the type of leadership style they use, and the actions they take. If leaders deliver these three areas in a positive fashion and they “motivate” team members in the process, so be it. Let’s take a quick look at each area. We begin with leadership behavior.


One of the core functions of a leader is to help team members down a path that results in positive outcomes. Along the journey, leaders should focus on specific behaviors that will guide team members. It is critical that leaders lead by example. Not long ago a company, that will herein remain unnamed, implemented an enterprise system that completely changed their operating procedures. In theory, the new system would add great efficiencies to the business. That is, if everyone in the company embraced and used the system. All employees needed to be trained. The two owners of the company unfortunately believed that they were too busy and somehow too important to attend the subsequent training sessions. Initially, the other 150 employees eagerly attended the training. Their enthusiasm for the new system waned, however, due to the owners’ lack of involvement. In addition, during casual conversations it was evident that the owners could not intelligently discuss the nuances of the company’s new operating system. What did their lack of leading by example cost? Answer: $500,000 via an unused operating system, plus hundreds of man-hours lost on wasted training, plus deteriorated morale. Do not let set up your team members for disappointment – lead by example whenever possible!


Next, we take a look at leadership style. It is important that leaders choose the appropriate style for a given situation. In times of chaos or great change, a leader should employ a controlling style. During chaotic times (and whether we like it or not, change creates chaos) team members are looking for a take-charge person who speaks with confidence about events impacting the business and discusses the direction in which the company is headed. In contrast, in times of relative calm, when a team is performing well, a cheerleading style is appropriate. During stable times, a high performing team responds well to a leader who stokes the fire and maintains positive momentum. For those times in between chaos and calm, a leader would do well to embrace more of a coaching style. Helping team members to grow and learn is always a positive. Also, a coaching style deepens bench strength and helps increase team member retention.


Next we examine four overarching actions that leaders should embrace. First, communicate clear expectations to team members. While you are at it, listen to their expectations of you. If both of you meet each other’s expectations, the game of work is 75% won. Secondly, constantly develop your people so that they grow their professional competencies (see coaching style above). Third, consistently reinforce a compelling mission and future vision for the company. People love to follow visionaries – especially those who walk the talk. Lastly, on a monthly basis highlight the major priorities on which the company is focused. By frequently communicating top organizational priorities, a leader can ensure that all (okay, a majority of) team members are rowing in the same direction.


Bottom Line: Leaders need to behave in a fashion that models how their team members should behave. In addition, based on the situations they encounter, leaders need to be intentional about the style with which they lead. When a leader blends the right behaviors and style for a given situation at hand, they increase the probability that people will follow their lead. Lastly, when leaders add result-driving actions into the mix, they create an unstoppable force. But you know this; just make certain that others do as well.  


May your success in 2011 be unstoppable my friends. Until next time, be well!


Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and collaboration consultant, executive coach, and strategic planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available atwww.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug help your team work together better, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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