Becoming an effective leader

2.2 - Review own ability to motivate, delegate and empower others

Motivation Theory

Leadership and Motivation


There are a myriad of leadership models to choose from, ranging from McGregor’s Theory XY through Adair’s Action-Centred (or Functional) Leadership, Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Continuum Theory to  Blanchard’s  Situational Leadership and many more in between. What all the leadership models have in common is the focus on how to get the best out of the people who work for your organisation. Of course, getting the best out of the people who work for you depends in part upon their motivation and your ability to lead them successfully.

We  all  know  that  our  own  motivation  can  vary  from  day-to-day  and  situation-to- situation. Understanding why this is has been the subject of considerable research. So, what is motivation?

Take a moment to think how you would define motivation.

The  common  threads  between  the  two  definitions  –  and  there  are  many  more definitions that could be used – is that motivation is goal-driven and requires effort on the part of people within the organisation. It is reasonable to suggest, therefore, that motivation is about enabling an employee to successfully complete, to the best of their ability, the tasks that the employer pays them to perform.

There are 2 types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.



•   Extrinsic Motivation is where an individual is encouraged to reach a goal or target  by  reward  or  sanction.  For  example,  a  young  person  sitting  an examination may be motivated to pass an examination because a parent offers a financial reward for success; while,


•   Intrinsic Motivation is the motivation to succeed in something, or to pursue something purely because it is interesting, that comes from within. Pursuit of a hobby is a good example of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation rarely carries over into the workplace.



The Psychological Contract


The concept of a Psychological Contract between the employer and the employee was first articulated and developed in the 1960s by Chris Argyris and Edgar Schein. The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) defines the Psychological Contract as:



'…the perceptions of the two parties, employee and employer, of what their

mutual obligations are towards each other.'



While the use of the word ‘obligations’ suggests some formality to the Psychological Contract, the word ‘perception’ indicates that it is more informal and imprecise when compared with, say, a contract of employment. The critical thing to note is that the Psychological Contract refers to all aspects of the employer/employee relationship. In today’s workplace, the Psychological Contract has links to many theories of motivation and leadership. In essence, managers should recognise that employer behaviour, as observed by the employee, can lead to unrealistic expectations (positive and negative) on the part of the employee, affecting workplace motivation.


Employees will have personal objectives that they are seeking to achieve through their work in addition to, or combined with, the organisational objectives that are required from them. This is a healthy situation if both the individual objectives and organisational objectives are productively combined. This is usefully represented through the idea of the ‘Psychological Contract’ – an informal and unwritten set of expectations about what an employer and an employee are entitled to, in this case in terms of achievement of objectives.

The Psychological Contract (Format: AH Raymondson 2011)




The diagram represents the Psychological Contract as a set of scales. When the expectations of the organisation and of the individual are ‘in balance’ then both sets of expectations are being met. When either the organisation’s expectations or the individual’s expectations are not being met the scales are out of balance.  If individual expectations are not being met then the individual will not be happy and vice versa; performance is likely to suffer as a consequence. It is self evident that the potential for the Psychological Contract to be out of balance  – for example,  during periods of change – is significantly increased. It sometimes helps to think of the Psychological Contract as a balance between rights and responsibilities. The employer and the employee both have rights (expectations) and responsibilities (obligations) to meet the expectations of the other. Thus, as an employee, you would expect to be paid on time. As an employer, you would expect your employees to work hard during the day and to meet any targets or objectives that have been agreed. If both the employer and the employee meet their obligations, it is likely that their respective expectations are being met.


As a leader, you may need to invest time, therefore, in understanding what individuals in your team are seeking to get out of work and whether their goals and aspirations are being met. There is a clear link to be made between an individual having a good balance between what they expect to achieve and what they are actually able to achieve through their work. This relates directly to motivation and performance.


Before looking at some of the theories of motivation, it might useful to consider what motivates  you  and  to  reflect  whether  or  not  your  colleagues  share  the  same motivations.