There are books on leadership, conferences to help leaders hone their skills, and many companies even have a mentoring program in order to cultivate home-grown leaders. There are podcasts, webinars, Twitter accounts, and just about every other form of media that helps foster leadership skills. And the reason for this is that leadership is difficult. It comes naturally to very few people. It takes dedication and a willingness to learn.
It is for this reason that over a quarter of North American businesses are investing in internal training, with their number one focus on management and leadership skills.
Unfortunately, many companies still fear that they are either stuck with or must replace poor leaders. This isn't necessarily the case, though. There are methods for creating motivated leaders that enhance their own skills and increase their effectiveness. Here are a few tips to get started.
1. Don't Use Traditional Motivational Tactics
Having managers and even C-Suite executives that don't help drive the organization forward has been a problem that every organization has faced for as long as businesses have existed. And top leadership has consistently tried different methods for motivating them. They have encouraged them to be more like history's greatest leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and George Washington. Or they have tried to give them incentives or deterrents (i.e. a bonus or a citation from HR). Unfortunately, these methods don't really work. They may create a quick burst of motivation, but it never lasts.
Unmotivated leaders cannot be motivated by others. They must motivate themselves. Therefore, instead of spending time and energy attempting to spark motivation, company leadership should concentrate on creating a more conducive environment for motivation. This environment should offer poor leaders the right circumstances to fully realize their own motivation. In other words, companies need to create a culture where people can be passionate about their job and desire to work towards realistic and measurable goals. If they fail to do this, it can end up costing the business significantly--Companies lose out on $300 billion every year from the loss in productivity created by unmotivated workforces.
2. Encourage Them to Identify Their Passion
Nothing motivates an individual more than fully realizing what their passion is and being able to pursue it full-throttle. Companies need to give their leaders the time and opportunity to do this.
This passion could be part of their role within the company or it could be outside of work. If they love a certain aspect of their job, a business should identify ways to amplify it. This will nourish a more positive and energetic attitude towards every other aspect. Alternatively, if leaders have passions that are not related to work, the company should try and find a way to support this. If they love golf, make sure they're included on client golf outings. If they want to spend more time with their family, host a 'Bring Your Child To Work Day' or make the next corporate event for families.
When leaders feel that the company is meeting their needs and desires and helping them to pursue their own passions, they will feel more inclined to further dedicate themselves to the company. This can be seen through recent studies that have shown millennial leaders have new priorities at work. They want more than a paycheck--they want to be able to pursue a purpose.
3. Stop Looking at The Leader As A Problem
It's human nature for any company to see poor leadership as a problem that needs to be solved. And to some extent it is. However, there needs to be a shift in perspective. Businesses should see productive and effective leadership as an end goal. The best way for them to attain this goal is to fully understand the individuals in leadership positions. When the organization understands the individual, they can identify the best way to mold an environment that fosters motivation.
4. Embrace Challenges
When companies see a lack of motivation in their leaders, they often want to appease them by easing up the intensity of work situations. This might mean bringing in more help or it could mean refraining from conflict and controversy. In the immediate, this makes a leader's life easier. However, when this becomes business as usual, it makes a leader's job monotonous.
Allowing conflict, controversy, and challenges into the company can help to drive the leader to take action. It can get them excited about making changes to processes or systems. It can bring out a passion for fixing and improving the business. Sometimes these situations can get messy, but they often help to ignite passion within leaders.
Invite some change into the organization. If the change offers benefits and these benefits are clearly communicated to the leaders and the rest of the workforce, this can help to cure any boredom or staleness that is slowly draining leaders of their motivation. And to really spark excitement, the company can ask the demotivated leader to come up with innovative ideas and then lead the charge in introducing it to the company. Harvard Business Review, as well as many other leading publications, have expressed time and again how important it is for companies to develop a culture of 'play', where leaders can explore and innovate--it is this type of culture that ignites motivation.
5. Listen Instead of Telling
Many executives and boards prefer to address the situation of a poor leader head on. They see an issue and they immediately confront the leader about it. They may use an annual review or a quarterly update meeting to discuss the problem. They will inform them that they have seen a lack of motivation and then offer them several possible solutions.
The leader will likely respond positively, saying that they agree and are willing to work harder in the coming weeks and months. In the end, though, this dies out and little to no improvement is made. In some cases, it may even serve to further demotivate the leader.
A smarter approach is to come at the conversation from a listening angle. If a business believes in the value of understanding their leaders, they must listen--85% of learning is accomplished through listening. The company should craft questions that help the leader to think about their existing situation and state of mind. It should encourage the leader to come up with their own solution and to identify what it is that is keeping them from being fully present and passionate about moving the company forward. The business should make it clear that they want to help clear any obstacles, but that they also want the leader to be proactive in identifying methods for reinvigorating him/herself.
Watch our recorded webinar "How to Help Managers Develop Leadership Skills" to learn how to identify effective strategies for developing your leaders. Find out how to build a more engaged and productive workforce and see some best practice case studies and resources to help you.