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15 Habits of Highly Motivational Leaders

15 Habits of Highly Motivational Leaders

The essence of motivation is the belief that something different, something better is possible. It is a desire to do more, to achieve more. Highly motivational leaders arouse this belief in people and incite positive action toward a desired goal or outcome. Whether they are leading a large multinational organization or a small local community toward a goal, highly motivational leaders are focused and demonstrate habits that set them apart. Here are 15 powerful habits of highly motivational leaders that perpetuate a bias for action and lend themselves to deeper connection, inspiration and devotion among those fortunate enough to follow such leaders.

1. They study situations carefully.

Highly motivational leaders have a habit of studying each situation, problem or circumstance thoroughly before they set about to address it. They know people will only listen to and act on what you say if they believe you fully understand what is happening and how it is affecting them. You cannot lead people, let alone inspire them, if you don’t understand the heart of their problems. Understand your followers’ problems and or challenges fully and you will earn their trust and listening ear.

2. They listen attentively.

Motivational leaders listen to the stories and plights of the people they lead. They take a keen interest in their followers’ hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future. This helps them establish a deep connection with their followers or team at a human-to-human level, which in turn allows them to relate with their feelings, pains and joys. Listen to those you lead. It tells them “I care” and “I want to help.”

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3. They speak authentically.

Highly motivational leaders speak their minds openly and honestly without fear or favor. They challenge misplaced ideas and rebuff oppressive systems not just to improve the lives of their followers, but also to impact the greater world positively. If you have an idea or opinion, vocalize it. If you are quiet, you stifle your ideas to death and deny your followers the opportunity to try and challenge or contribute to them. Remember authentic leadership is powered by authentic communication.

4. They make the tough calls.

Highly motivational leaders are not afraid to make the tough calls. In fact, they are celebrated for their judgment and tough calls. You simply cannot be an inspirational leader if you have a habit of shying away from making tough calls. It is your duty as a leader to step up whenever opportunities that require enormous bets arise and make sound, objective judgments. That is a mark of strong, motivational leadership.

5. They set the example.

Highly motivational leaders lead by example. There is hardly anything worse for morale than a leader who doesn’t practice what he or she preaches. The “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy is a deadly poison that kills peoples’ motivation. Be the example you want others to follow. If you tell your company staff to stay late at work, be the first to stay late at work. Your team is watching and your actions speak louder than your words.

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6. They raise expectations.

Highly motivational leaders have a habit of setting high standards and pushing their teams to greater heights. They align core goals with core values and hold every member of their teams accountable for their individual and shared actions. This breeds common belief, dedication and focus. Show your team how they are an uncommon breed and expect nothing but the best from each one of them.

7. They put something on the line.

People often let the foot off the gas in the pursuit of a goal when there is nothing at stake. However, when something valued or highly desirable is on the line, people are focused and put every effort to achieve it. Highly motivational leaders ensure their team knows what is on the line. They let them know that what is on the line is worth caring about; it is worth pursing and within reach. Assure your team that every creative input, every application of talent, and every expended effort takes them closer to that desired outcome.

8. They remove productivity barriers.

Highly motivational leaders know that progress is key for continued engagement, focus and satisfaction in a cause or pursuit. They, therefore, habitually remove productivity barriers that hinder progress, including fear, doubt and lack of resources. Keep your team sufficiently motivated and active in a cause by providing what is necessary to make things happen.

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9. They focus on the positives.

Highly motivational leaders know your attitude determines your altitude. They, therefore, tend to focus more on the positives, while still not overlooking the negatives. They highlight the strengths and talents of their team more and strive to keep an optimistic attitude. This births hope and motivates everyone to improve and pull together towards a shared purpose. Constantly remind your followers that good things are possible and will come in time with effort, patience and persistence.

10. They promote work flexibility.

People’s personal and professional lives sometimes collide. Highly motivational leaders know this and habitually work to manage this collision properly. They help their followers find the right balance between the demands of work and personal lives at home by creating flexible work (or participation) schedules that suit everyone. This habit promotes healthy engagement and commitment to a cause or goal. Remember, butts in the seat at work don’t always equate to productivity.

11. They encourage fun/play.

Highly motivational leaders know that all work and no play can wear out even the best, most dedicated follower. They, therefore, habitually encourage fun and play at work to spice things up a bit, relieve tensions and celebrate even the small victories. Imagine how refreshing, rejuvenating and motivating a company party with music and dance can be, especially when the team is feeling a little stressed or drained. Organize parties or shows with music and other fun activities for your team occasionally to celebrate victories, prevent burnout and bolster team spirit.

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12. They give honest feedback.

Highly motivational leaders know everybody wants to improve and be better in life. They, therefore, habitually give thoughtful, constructive feedback to their followers to help them improve and be better individually, as well as a team. Giving honest feedback and helping your followers improve is a mark of a true leader. Give honest feedback without being brutish to develop and help your team become more polished, refined and skilled.

13. They give praise where it is due.

Highly motivational leaders habitually give praise where it is due. They verbally express their gratitude for the efforts, sacrifices and contribution of the team. This creates a good feeling of self-worth and self-importance within the team, which makes people feel that their leader genuinely cares and wants them to succeed. Let people know that their role in the team is important and give them praise for a job well done. This can bring you rewards as a leader that no amount of money can buy.

14. They seek help/support when necessary.

Highly motivational leaders habitually seek help and support whenever they need it. They are not afraid to show some vulnerability because no human being is totally in charge of everything and knows everything. Seek qualified help whenever you need it. Don’t pretend to know everything. Seeking help as a leader shows deep appreciation and humility. It is an act of confidence in the knowledge and skills of others and inspires trust and respect..

15. They take responsibility.

Highly motivational leaders take responsibility for everything that happens under their leadership, both good and bad. They never shift blame to their followers when undesired results happen. They are the first to say, “I was wrong. I made the wrong choice.” And, “We need to change course.” Stand up, brush the dust from your clothes, roll your sleeves and lead the way again toward the outcome you want. Everybody makes bad decisions sometimes. What matters is what you do after you make those mistakes.

Featured photo credit: Center for American Progress Action Fund via flickr.com

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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