As I run along the beachfront near where I live, I frequently see people wearing clothing with the words “NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP” printed on them. If I’m honest, I tend to see it as a bit silly – I’m not sure why I should have to see that message when I don’t have any remote desire to give up anyway. I have never had an issue with motivation for exercise – my challenge tends to be knowing when to stop. That said, I do understand that many people do need to find ways to encourage them to do things. And this started me thinking; what is it that drives people to start something and keep going?
Many people have a definite goal. Maybe they are overweight and want to lose weight to fit into clothes for an event or need to do so for health reasons. This may be used as motivation. According to the Macmillan dictionary, motivation can be defined as “the reason for doing something”.
But just as quickly as the overweight person started exercising, they stopped. The wedding is over, the health scare is no longer prevalent. The motivation is gone. Often the only way to get going again is to get someone else, such as a personal trainer, to drive and push them.
So why do some people keep going? There are probably a number of reasons. In my case, much as it still surprises me given it was something I couldn’t do as a child, I have developed a passion for running. Recently, I was taken ill and couldn’t run for an extended period. This was hard, I was grumpy. Fortunately, now I am back in my running shoes. At the end of my run recently, as I was doubled over, a passing stranger asked me “Is it worth it?”. I looked up, grinned and replied “Yes! Definitely!”. My passion is still there, maybe stronger than ever.
Passion is different to motivation. It is defined as “showing a barely controllable emotion” or “compelling enthusiasm”. For me, running gives me pleasure. The thing with passion is that it can be “contagious”. My passion for running seems to rub off on others. I never cease to be amazed at how many people seem to start exercising once I’ve joined their “group” – whether a new workplace, club or informal gathering. Something seems to connect with them and creates a trigger.
I’m going to call this being inspired. Inspired can be defined as “to affect, guide or arouse by driving influence”. Rather than being driven by a goal (motivation), there seems to be a prompting, a trigger that generates some emotion.
Based on this, I don’t believe that “inspire” and “motivate” are synonymous even though we
often see them as such. Motivation requires a goal and ongoing focus on that goal. When the goal is over, often the motivation is too. Inspiration is more of a trigger, something that stirs up some something, an emotional response, and makes a person want to do something.
What does this mean for leaders? I strongly believe that if a leader can inspire someone to want to do something, that is the ultimate prize. It’s as if passion to do something is passed on from one to another.
Are all leaders able to inspire? I’m sure many would disagree with me, but I don’t believe that all leaders are able to do so. I also am of the opinion that the ability to inspire is largely an inherent characteristic of a person, difficult to reproduce or develop. It is a “presence”.
So does that mean that people that aren’t able to instill an emotional response in people cannot lead or motivate? Again, my opinion may be controversial, but I don’t believe so. I think that in many cases, working with team members to create and achieve goals is what is required. That is motivation. And the good thing about motivation, is that it does not depend on personality, character or passion. A good leader is able to develop and hone motivational skills and behaviours.