Leadership and Motivation

The role of a leader is to get things done and drive change through other people.

There are three main styles of leadership:

To determine which style will be most effective for a particular person or situation, a leader needs to know how to motivate each individual they are working with.

There are many theories of motivation.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Maslow purports that people exist in a hierarchy of needs. The most basic need is physiological (food, water, warmth and shelter) followed by safety needs which include job security and somewhere stable to live. Next are social needs for companionship and involvement with others. Esteem needs follow next and this about gaining recognition and respect from others. Lastly, but at the highest level, is self-actualisation covering the desire for status and personal growth.

Maslow states that each level must be satisfied before the next one will become a motivator. However this isn’t always the case as Mahatma Ghandi certainly risked physiological and safety needs for the satisfaction of others when India was striving for independence from the UK.

What leaders can take from Maslow’s model is that they should create opportunities for individuals to develop and make the most of their talents.

Herzberg’s hygiene factors:

Herzberg felt there to be two groups of things to consider, one of which de-motivates and one which motivates. He called the things that can de-motivate ‘hygeine factors’ and these include company policies, salary and the working environment. He stated these to be basics which must be right or else the employee could be dissatisfied, but, he did not class these as things which could motivate. Motivators are in their own second group and include achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility and career progression.

McGregor’s X and Y theory:

McGregor had a somewhat different theory that there are two types of people. The first group, called X people, need an authoritarian approach as they are inherently lazy, resistant to work and will take no responsibility. The second group, Y people, are highly self-motivated and best management through participation and involvement.

No one theory will be right or wrong.

A democratic style of leadership will be most appropriate to senior teams and those who are motivated by higher order needs such as personal development and public recognition. On the other hand employees involved in more everyday administration tasks may only be coming to work for the social aspect and would be best managed with a more consultative style. The consultative and democratic styles could be argued to be the most motivating as most people enjoy some degree of responsibility. However people working in the emergency services such as hospitals and fire rescue may need an authoritarian approach because there simply isn’t time for consultation on what’s best to do when lives are in danger.

Each style will work well in different work situations and for different people. One style is unlikely to work well all the time with the same person. Someone who is normally satisfying the highest order self-actualisation needs according to Maslow’s theory could drop back into safety needs and easily slip into being a McGregor X type worker if they feel that their job is under threat and they may be made redundant. The leader must know when to adapt.