Testing Leadership Mettle…


I am sure you have heard, more than once, that every individual is unique. The hot buttons of each one of us are different. However, we all aspire for and come together as teams and organizations, in pursuit of the achievement of objectives much larger than our individual selves. Some tend to do it better than the others. While we work together toward common objectives, there are multiple threads and hot buttons that need to be managed at the team and individual levels. This ultimately constitutes leadership and its varying degrees of efficiency that determines the health of the organization.

The premise of leadership is founded on the universal notion that a leader can motivate individuals and energize them to go from their current state to a desired state of optimal productivity. However, to do that, a capable leader needs to understand individual motivational needs and be able to work on them. Without intervening at the individual level, optimal productivity and more importantly, a willing pursuit of common objectives of the team or organization at the highest levels, is not possible. It should be a prerogative of every manager to understand their individual team member motivational needs and to be able to act on them, to bring common objectives achievement into focus.

While we all have finite time and energy to do a multitude of tasks, an important aspect of management is the ability to interact with teams and its individual constituents. Many a time individuals themselves do not have a clear understanding of their own motivational needs. This is where the need for a mentor becomes clear, in order to help the individual grow. Mind you, I say a mentor who can help individuals identify their own needs and help them focus on fulfilling those. External motivation has limitations and the focus should be on awakening internal factors of motivation for the individual and igniting the spark within to have them act on their own needs.

The best form of motivation however, is inspiration. If the leaders embrace the principles they spout and act in ways to show that they embrace what they preach, it goes a long way in inspiring others, that look up to them and respect them, to follow and reflect better selves.  Do note that a leader cannot actively try and inspire someone; it is for the others to get inspired. Hence, leaders can do themselves a favor by not always focusing on external motivation for their teams, but embracing ideals they would like to propagate within the cultural fabric of the organization. These will find ways of spreading through the organization as inspiration. And inspiration allows willing changes that individuals make in how they act and behave, purely because they believe and also out of respect and the need to see themselves in the same frame as those they look up to.

A leader’s effectiveness is determined by the inspiration they can invoke within their team. A key aspect that leaders need to take note of is that not all individuals are made equal. Some are motivated to do the minimum for a paycheck and others, to do just enough to hold on to the job. Inspiration may not awaken in them due to multiple personal complexities and it becomes important to recognize and understand, that a team is made of individuals with varying levels of motivation and it’s the leader’s job to ensure that this mix doesn’t affect the team objectives in a detrimental way at any time. The key is to work on individuals feeling engaged in their roles, for that is when they have the freedom to be creative and express themselves through their work in the best possible ways.

While setting an example and inspiring the individuals is the highest tenet that a leader should hold themselves to, communication is a two way street, where they should be willing to listen to the feedback and act on it, for the benefit of everyone involved. Transparency and empowering individuals to unleash their creative freedom in their roles goes a long way in bolstering their attitudes and getting the best out of them. Caring for each other, is finally the one aspect that cements a great relationship between everyone where no matter the challenge, they will all rise up together to take it on.

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