Looking for “Shove” in all the Wrong Places

[A Steve Geske Memorial Post about real leverage in leadership]

Sometimes I just get bad ideas for titles and can’t resist.

So much of leadership (and it’s more questionable cousin, management) is focused on HOW to motivate others to do what you need/want them to do.

I catch myself regularly getting caught in this traditional way of thinking.

I’m reminded this morning that the real leverage in leadership is not found in focusing on the behaviors of others but rather in one’s own functioning. Shifting to a focus on self-regulation and self-definition and taking away the need to have someone around you change is the only way to get lasting change.

We can pressure someone into changing…for about a week. Like a rubber band, their old behaviors bounce back and return (often stronger and more prominent than ever).

“Motivation” is a by-product of the authentic and systemic presence of a self-defining leader. Toss out everything you haver heard about how to push (shove) others into action.


7 thoughts on “Looking for “Shove” in all the Wrong Places”

  1. Steve, I catch myself as well.

    I am in the processes of replacing the idea of “motivation” with “inspiration” when talking about what leaders should try to be. Motivate is really a reflexive verb. Inspire come from Latin meaning “breath life/spirit into.”

    Also, random thought not related (maybe it is), I was thinking that God has been doing a better job of maintaining the outside position on the triangle in the last few millennia.

    1. Yes, inspiration is closer to the idea!

      However, I would want to pay attention to the focus. If inspiration is “other-change-focused” I would have little help for the effectiveness and expect even a backlash making these efforts not only less than effective but detrimental. If the focus is on oneself as a leader and on the environment (the leader gets to set up what is acceptable and not acceptable), I would expect a greater outcome as a by-product of this. Changing of others needs to be a by-product and not a prime product no matter what you call it.

      It is not about method, technique or the language you use. It is about focus.

      This is the difference between “I have a dream!” and “I have a goal for you.”

      Leaders need to get up in front of their organizations and offer their vision – for themselves and anyone who wishes to join. If that is what is meant by inspiration, I’m on board with that! Thank you!

      1. Steve, yes, that is what I mean by inspire. If the folks in the organization buy-in to the inspiration, they are then “motivated.”

        PS – Have you read or seen Simon Sinek – Start with Why? He has a TED.com talk that is very good.

        Best line, “[Martin Luther King] wrote the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.”

        1. I haven’t read Sinek. The TED talk sounds worthwhile.

          I think links will work in the comment box as well. πŸ˜‰

          (Perhaps our other readers are also interested.)

  2. I have an afterthought and will add it as a comment.

    I remember working with Dr. Friedman once when he made a comment about dysfunctional families. He said, the one characteristic of all dysfunctional families is the presence of will conflicts – one person or group seeking to impose their will on another. The degree of will conflicts in a family (system) is a gauge of the level of dysfunction.

    It occurs to me, how is the phenomenon of will conflicts in a family differ from that of efforts and programs for motivation in an organization? I propose they are exactly the same thing.

    The degree to which an organization and its leaders are focused on motivating others to behave in a prescribed way will be a barometer of the degree of dysfunction.

    Self-defining and setting up an environment that fosters certain behaviors are different from standard motivational “strategies.” The focus is different. The focus is on the leader and the environment rather than on another person.

    This gives people choices rather than making choices for them. Only small children can be motivated to comply. Teenagers and adult cannot be controlled. They must be allowed to make their own choices.

    Traditional motivational strategies and programs are often little more than “organizational will conflicts.”

    1. As the father of a two and five year old, I can tell you that small children cannot be motivated to comply either. We are just bigger and physical force provides an illusion of control. πŸ˜‰

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