2 Core Motivators
You walk into class and take your seat in a large lecture hall. It’s only the second week of law school and your senses remain on heightened alert. You’ve been warned about this particular class. The professor is known as tough. He sees his role as weeding out the students who are smart but cannot make it in the courtroom. Fail his class and you’re out.
Perhaps even more importantly, he runs the class like a courtroom. He will question you as if you were an attorney fighting for your client’s life. You watched what he did to one student in the last class, reducing the student to an emotional mess.
You’re determined not to show weakness. You’ve prepared and studied like never before.
That’s the way I felt during my first year of law school. Some level of fear, I learned, may have its place as a self-motivator. No one wanted to walk into class and look foolish and unprepared. More than pursuing a good grade, it was the fear of public humiliation that drove most students to study and prepare for class.
Whether you want to motivate yourself or others, there are motivators at the core of every action. Knowing what is driving you and others is critically important.
Recently, I saw Greg McEvilly’s talk on motivation. Greg suggests that fear and love are the twin drivers of most actions. Greg is the CEO of KAMMOK, a company that sells outdoor equipment specializing in hammocks. In graduate school, he began to ask questions about motivation and behavior. Why is it that people behave the way they do? Even more important, Greg studied his own actions and thought about the definition of the words love and fear.
Love versus Fear
Realizing that he was primarily motivated by fear, Greg decided to change. As a graduate student in cross-cultural communications, he was deeply impacted by the number of children that died every day in Africa due to malaria. Knowing that malaria is preventable and treatable, he decided to launch his new company with the goal of preventing and treating malaria. That meant that the company would be motivated around the positive, around love.
Leading others requires a different awareness of motivation. Servant leadership is all about leading with others in mind. When a leader is focused on others, it shifts everything. It doesn’t mean that the leader isn’t tough or demanding. But it does mean that the leader is constantly thinking about the larger purpose and why the organization exists at all.
7 Motivation Questions
If you want to lead this way, I suggest seven key questions to ask yourself about your own motivation:
- To accomplish my goal, who is critically important?
- How can I serve others more as I meet my objectives?
- Why do I want to accomplish this goal?
- When I achieve an objective, will it improve the world in some way?
- Will others benefit as much, or more than me, when this is done?
- How can I lead more with love?
- How do I reduce fear?
These types of questions will cause you to lead differently. If your only goal is personal financial gain, you will struggle to inspire others. If you are motivated by love and serving others, you think differently.
My memories of law school remind me that fear’s motivation can be powerful. But few would voluntarily submit to that type of fear day in and day out in a job. To motivate others to a cause, try love. It changes your perspective and inspires.