The Four Laws Of Leadership.

The best leadership is motivational. But the author contends that most leaders misunderstand motivation.  In this two part article, he describes four laws of motivation that will help you be a better motivational leader.

By Brent Filson - 2005

Leadership is motivational or it’s stumbling in the dark.  After all, isn’t it more effective to have people want to go from point A to point B instead of to be ordered to go from A to B?

The ability to instill “want to” in others, to motivate them, marks the difference between average leaders and great leaders.

But many leaders misunderstand the true meaning of motivation.  And if you misunderstand its meaning, you can’t make it happen. Break the laws, and you’ll fail to motivate people. Or you may motivate them -- but motivate them against you.

Here are four “laws” of motivation that you must adhere to if you want to consistently motivate people to get great results.

First, let’s be clear about what motivation is.  The word derives from the Latin root “to move.”  Motivation involves movement; yet the Latin root indicates it’s not just movement but also “that which triggers movement.” 
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not counting angels on the head of a pin.  This subtle double meaning in the very root of the word motivation represents a manifest leadership lesson for you.   

This lesson can be understood within the context of the four laws of motivation.

Law 1. Motivation is physical action.  Note that the first two letters of the word are the first two letters of words such as “motor”, “movement”, “momentum”, “motion”.  Those words denote physical action.  Motivation isn’t what people think or feel but what they physically do.  Furthermore, it is not simply engaging in physical action but also preparing for physical action.  In other words, there is action and also that which triggers the action. 

Law 2.  Motivation is their choice.  Many leaders are clueless about motivation because they think it’s their own choice. They think because they simply want people to be motivated, people should automatically be motivated.  That misunderstanding has caused many a leader to come to grief.  The act of their being motivated is not your choice, it’s theirs, always.  Motivation can’t be done to people.  People must “do” motivation to themselves.  Leaders communicate, and the people they lead motivate themselves.

Law 3. Emotion drives motivation.  The words emotion and motivation come from the same Latin root “to move”.  When you want to move people to take action, engage their emotions. Motivation involves emotionally commitment.

Law 4. Face-to-face speech is generally the best way to motivate people (i.e., have those people choose to be motivated.)

With these concepts in mind, you can begin to get a clear understanding of motivation by studying the past. 

This exercise will sharpen your ideas on motivation.  Who were the three most effective leaders in history?  Why were they effective?  Who were the three least effective?  Why were they ineffective? Who are the most effective leaders in your industry?  Why are they effective?  Who are the least effective leaders in your industry?  Why are they ineffective?  Who are the most effective leaders in your organization?  Why are they ineffective? 

Now go back over each answer and tie it to motivation or lack there of.  What motivational lesson is there in each answer?  In doing so, you may find yourself changing and sharpening your ideas about motivation; and hence changing and sharpening your leadership skills.

In Part Two, I will expand on each law.


2005© The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – Celebrating 25 years of helping leaders of top companies worldwide achieve outstanding results every day. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get his FREE report "7 Steps To Leadership Mastery"