Feelings, the Powerful Leadership Motivator

Can you remember when a previous boss or colleague acknowledgedeffective leadership by appealing to feelings you for a trait you value? How did that make you feel? Were you shocked that s/he knew enough about you and cared enough to know what you specifically value in yourself? How motivated were you at work after that? 

You might value your ability to take educated risks and be courageous in the face of failure. You might be a “Maven” as Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Tipping Point, where having knowledge and being informed is most important to you.

If you feel that way so do the people you manage. How you connect to a colleague as a leader or a peer can make all the difference. It’s only human.

Recently Dan Rockwell, who writes a leadership blog, wrote about emotions and how leaders can use them authentically to motivate. What I liked most about this blog are the suggested leadership behaviors that appeal to individual team members and their values:  


  • Mary – Informed – Invite Mary in for a short conversation regarding your plans for a strategic initiative. Be aware that she will, most likely, share your conversation with others.
  • Bob – Competent – Explain how one of his specific strengths will take him far. Highlight something he recently learned.
  • Fred – Courageous – Ask Fred what he learned from his last mistake without offering corrections. Tell him, “That’s great Fred. I know we’ll be better next time.”

To be able to know what motivates each member of your team and how to appeal to that motivation takes time and skill.  It’s a human, thoughtful connection probably gained from observing and listening. But, the best leaders realize the little time it takes pays off big with an engaged, highly motivated team.

Related Item:

What Leaders Should Avoid


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