Why leadership is NOT about motivating others

We often ask people what characteristics they think are important for good leaders. And so many times we hear that they should be really good at motivating staff.

Here’s our take on the situation…

While we have seen that old-school leadership has typically been about motivating others, neuroscience teaches us that we get better results when we see leadership as coaching others to motivate themselves.

Here’s why coaching others to motivate themselves is a better approach

Neuroscience teaches us that you can’t undo existing wiring in your brain – instead you need to create new wiring if you are looking to change your thinking over the long term. And unfortunately our brains are wired for defence which means we feel safer when we see evidence which confirms our current wiring to be correct.

So it’s not easy but it’s possible to create new wiring. You must give conscious attention to the wiring you want to create.

Motivation is kind of like discipline. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s…..well…..not there.

Your brain is like a muscle

Think of your brain like a muscle. In order to improve it needs constant training. So if you have an underactive muscle (we all have them) it’s important to do isolated work on that muscle so that it can work effectively with the others muscles as it’s supposed to do.

A great leader can coach others to motivate themselves….

A great leader will be able to help staff to identify beliefs which might not be aligned with their goals. For example, a sales person might have a particular target to achieve but not necessarily believe that they can achieve that goal. And we’ve all heard the saying “whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t you are right”.

So if you have any team members with any such limiting beliefs, it’s your job to firstly help your team members identify these, and then help them to create new wiring which is aligned with their goal.

To do this, it’s important to help your staff to look for reasons why their limiting belief is not necessarily true (by helping them to find evidence to the contrary) and then help them to choose a belief that serves them better.

If you would like more help in coaching your team to motivate themselves, you will be very happy you did. So please contact us at any stage.


If you’d like to find out more, join the conversation in our next open workshop.