Self-Motivation for Leaders

leaders take responsibility for keeping themselves motivated. They meet this responsibility using three methods. One is through their vision.

Most real leaders, especially transformational leaders who have the ability to create the future, are dreamers. They dream of a future and of possibilities that nobody has thought of before. Sometimes a true leader can see a future with crystal clarity while other people around them cannot imagine it at all. Then the leaders go forward, and through planning, administering, and organizing, they make their dreams come true.

When I conduct strategic planning exercises with corporations, I ask the gathered leaders to imagine a future where in five years the company was the very best in its industry. Once everyone has developed the ideal features and attributes of this future ideal company, I ask, “Is this possible?” One by one, the executives will begin to nod and say, “Yes, it is possible. Maybe not in one year, but in five years, yes.” We then discuss how to reach that ideal over the next five years. Once you have a clear vision of what you want, the next question is always “How?”

You can practice this same exercise for your life. Imagine that you have no limitations — no limitations of money, education, experience, contacts, or anything else. Now imagine your ideal life in five years. What are you doing? What does your life look like? Once you have the details of your dream, the next step is to make it happen. Think about what you have to start doing today to achieve your “five-year fantasy.” The great Peter Drucker wrote, “We greatly overestimate what we can do in one year. But we greatly underestimate what is possible for us in five years.”

Set Goals and Gain Commitment

Second, leaders motivate themselves continually by setting higher goals. We know that if you keep setting higher and higher goals, if you keep striving and make sure your reach exceeds your grasp, you will stay motivated.

And, finally, leaders motivate themselves by gaining the commitment of others. What leaders find is that when other people will commit to the dream, it in turn makes them more enthusiastic and more dedicated. The employees of are committed to CEO Tony Hsieh's dream of the ultimate customer service experience. How does he know? Because at the end of customer service training, new Zappos employees are offered a $2,000 check to leave. It may seem like a strange proposition, but the goal is simple: to make sure that the employees who stay really want to be there and are committed to the ideals of the company. A tiny fraction of new employees grab the money and run — which is just as well, because they would probably never be as committed as those who turn their backs on easy money for a chance to work for Zappos.

Work Hard

Success does not come easy. Leaders are self-motivated to put in the work required to achieve their dreams. As a consequence:

Leaders work harder. The workplace is not the place to socialize. It is not the place to wander around the Internet. Leaders don't waste time when they are in the workplace.

Leaders work faster. They are always looking to pick up the pace, immediately. They are never satisfied with their speed. They want to get more done, faster.

Leaders work longer hours. Most leaders are the first ones in the office. And they are often the last to leave. Just those extra hours a week make a huge difference in their productivity.

Leaders are at the top of the pole. They cannot depend on others to motivate them; they have to be self- motivating. Of course, being a leader is a very motivating experience in itself.

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