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The inextricable link between leadership and motivation

By John Turner - posted Wednesday, 26 October 2011

"Leadership" is a poorly understood term in many businesses and industries. Anyone attempting to lead another individual or group is attempting to motivate. So to start, let me define motivation.

Motivation is "the inner control of behaviour as represented by physiological conditions, interests, attitudes and aspirations". Motivation is not movement generated by external forces. External forces are usually either bullying or bribery.

There is one old article that I used in the early seventies to prepare an address to the assembled senior executives of a major company. That article reinforced my understanding of the word.It iswittily written to describe the common misunderstandings about motivation.


Most managers nowadays would agree that slave driving or in Herzberg's terminology "negative physical Kita" is not motivation. Herzberg uses the training of a large dog as an illustration. While the dog is still a pup, the toe of a shoe can be used to ease it out of its master's favourite chair. When the dog is fully grown and, not unlike unionised labour, capable of a snarling response, it will remove itself in response to a proffered dog biscuit.

If rear thrust is not motivation, why do so many managers believe that frontal pull or enticement is motivation? In an era when political correctness was not considered of great importance, Herzberg stated it this way: "It is because negative Kita is rape, positive Kita is seduction . . .Seductionsignifies that you were a party to your own downfall. That is whypositive Kita is so popular - the organisation does not have to kick you, youkick yourself."

My experience is in heavy industry, but leadership and motivation are similar in all workplaces be it the factory, the military, the public service department or the teacher's classroom. In such places, two theories have found use in explaining behaviour. They are the Craftsmanship Theory and the Indifference Theory. These two theories are generally used to form a dichotomy for the description of an organisation as a whole. Whereas, in reality, they are a dichotomy for description of the individual involved.

In any workplace or sample of people, there will be those, the craftsmen for want of a better term, who are truly motivated to perform any worthwhile task to the best of their ability. At the other end of the continuum there will be those who will deliberately perform any given task to the lowest possible standard in the longest possible time. These slackers, or rogues, pollute the working environment of the craftsmen.

In an organization, it is the leader's task to ensure that the craftsman attitudes are stimulated and the indifferent attitudes suppressed. The craftsman is in a position of conflict. He is presented with a picturedrawn by the slackers, and sometimes by other leaders or people with a different axe to grind describing, in their picture, the employers as grasping, as exploiters, as a group uninterested in the welfare of the majority of the population. Unless the employer is able to resolve the conflict between the craftsmen's desire to do a craftsman's job and their suspicion that they are being imposed upon, capable people will do shoddy work and go home to sweat blood "building a model ship in a bottle."

This conflict can only be resolved if the leader provides adequate evidence that the picture drawn by the disgruntled is untrue. In the present business environment in Australia, indeed in much of the world, this has become nigh on impossible. How can the Chief Executive, on a salary fifty or more multiples of the wages of the lower level employees, pass any effective genuine motivation down through the five or six effective levels of the hierarchy in a large business? Qantas and baggage handlers come to mind.


The principal asset the Company can have in presenting its own picture is competent management - in the front line particularly. How are those at that level likely to believe they are working towards a worthwhile aim in the present situation?

Consider the situation confronted by the leading supervisor in a manufacturing department with a few hundred employees in a large industry. That senior supervisor or superintendent is in a position to directly stimulate the craftsmen attitudes and to suppress the indifferent attitudes. On the job, the craftsmen know whom the rogues and slackers are, and if the supervisor is considerate towards the craftsmen and those he is not sure about. The superintendent and his subordinates can be tough on those that are found to be rogues and decisions concerning the rogues will largely be accepted.

If the superintendent can't cure a particular rogue and he must try, he is in a position to get rid of him and he should. It is elementary justice that those who are willing should not be "poled upon" by the slackers. I have used the position of superintendent for a good reason. This word best describes the highest level at which a supervisor can be known personally by a large majority of the manual employees, certainly key ones, and by the people at the very top. His/hers is the highest level at which an officer can be considered as a go between, as the Company's representative to the manual employees and their representative to, in their eyes, the "great white fathers."

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About the Author

John Turner has an applied science degree on top of a diploma in metallurgy.

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