Inspiration Trumps Coercion And Motivation

Just read an excellent article on the Business Week site called The Era Of Inspiration which looked at the leaderships styles of Tom Coughlin (NY Giants Coach), Herb Kelleher (former chairman of Southwest Airlines), and Bill Marriott (CEO of Marriott). It discusses three different management styles: coercion, motivation, and inspiration.

Coughlin was considered an “autocratic tyrant,” but became more inclusive, creating a leadership council of 11 players. In effect, he shifted his style from coercion to inspiration. The changed paid off with a Superbowl championship

The article also quoted Kelleher who was Southwest Airlines’ beloved leader:

If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.

The article also makes the following key point:

Unlike coercion and motivation, the source of inspired conduct is intrinsic and internal. Inspired employees act on something they believe in; they are in the grip of ideas; they are compelled by a deeper purpose and propelled by values they hold fundamental.

My take: Inspiration is a fundamental part of good leadership; and it’s important that leaders instill a strong sense of purpose with their people.

The bottom line: Get your people do things because they want to, not because you want them to do it.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

2 thoughts on “Inspiration Trumps Coercion And Motivation”

  1. I feel like the original article makes an artificial distinction by implying that an ‘autocratic tyrant’ cannot be inspirational, or really that coercion, motivation and inspiration are different points on the same axis. You don’t pick one of them, they are each a piece of the toolkit, which it seemed the author was on to when he said:

    “Coercion and motivation remain necessary and valuable leadership approaches, but they are no longer sufficient on their own because the world has changed.”

    Maybe it’s an academic point. I doubt anyone would support the notion that uninspired employees or customers are better than inspired ones. =)

  2. Eric: You’re right. Sometimes, in some situations, coercion and motivation are perfectly appropriate. From my experience, though, many leaders underuse the inspirational approach.

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