Leadership: Motivation or Manipulation?

Motivation is the inspiration to do the right thing.  A leader imparts it.  The best colleagues, clients, and partners embrace it.

Do you know when you are being motivated and when you are being manipulated?  Do you motivate people or manipulate them?  Is there a distinction and if so, what is the difference?  Is there an appropriate time for each?

Tricking someone to do what you want them to do is manipulation.  Those who respond to it are either taken in by the superficial validation of own importance that is implied by the manipulator or driven by a fear of the consequences of questioning the manipulator.

OK.  So what?

Most of us are called upon to be both leaders and followers.  Part of wisdom is knowing when to do which and how.  As a leader, there will be situations when time does not permit a comprehensive explanation and as followers, there are times when we need to accept the decision and execute without an argument.

But, leaders owe it to their stakeholders to do the following:

  1. Live their values – The more you do this, the less time you will need to spend on points 2 and 3.
  2. Communicate them clearly – Keep them few and short.  They can be phrased as expectations.
  3. Give direction and expect initiative that is consistent with those values.

And when following, you owe it to your leader and organization to question when the direction you are given appears to seriously diverge from either the leader’s stated expectations or your own core values.  You need to be able to orbit your leader’s values and expectations and the direction that you are given while maintaining your own values.

So . . . Resolve to do the following:

Decide on your own core values and live them as consistently and transparently as you can.

As a follower, there will be times when you disagree with the leader and must dutifully carry out your responsibility (within obvious moral limits) as a member of the team, but you can do it with comprehension and not out of either fear or a need for validating your worth.

No leader or follower is ever perfectly consistent and always acts out of motivation or is never manipulated, but isn’t it a goal worthy of continuous pursuit?

Finally, I leave you with this thought for the weekend:  “You can’t lead others until you serve something greater than your own ambition.”

I would be delighted to know your thoughts on this subject.  Have a wonderful weekend!


Footnote and Question:  There will be those, both leaders and followers, who serve nothing more than their own immediate self-gratification.  These folks may not embrace leadership from either position.  Do we need to resort to manipulation in order to move some of these people the the right direction for the organization?

About Arnold Mark Wells
Industry, software, and consulting background. I help companies do the things about which I write. If you think it might make sense to explore one of these topics for your organization, I would be delighted to hear from you. I am solely responsible for the content in Supply Chain Action.

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