Monday, September 13, 2010

Are You Confusing Motivation with Inspiration?

Lance Secretan, the author of Inspire! What Great Leaders Do has been studying great leaders like Gandhi, Buddha, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Confucius for over 30 years of his life. Many people have come up to him over the years and asked, “What about Hitler or Stalin or Mussolini? They were great leaders too!” Well, that didn’t really sit well with Lance, so, he decided to take all of his years of research and come up with his own definition of great leadership. Here’s how his definition goes:

Great Leadership is a serving relationship with others that inspires their growth and makes the world a better place.

So, Lance breaks down his definition of great leadership into 3 parts. The first part being that Great Leadership is a serving relationship. There is a great quote by Frank Warren that goes like this: “If you want to be a leader you will be very frustrated; for very few people wish to be lead. If you aim to be a servant, you will never be frustrated.” The secret here, Lance says, is servant leadership! The second part of Lance’s definition is that Great Leadership should inspire growth in people. And finally, the third part of his definition is that Great Leadership should make the world a better place. And it is by this definition; Hitler would not be considered a great leader!

Lance mentions in his book that we haven’t really learned that much about leadership in the past 100 years. Most of what we know and teach about leadership still comes from the behavioral scientists like Pavlov and BF Skinner and others – the philosophy of using the punishment and reward system as motivation. We are motivated to do well at work to get that promotion or award or that nice corner office. We are also motivated that if we don’t do well at work we could get demoted, not get that bonus check, lose our budget or even get fired.

Lance believes that we need to move away from this old-school motivational way of leadership and into a newer-school inspirational way of leadership. But first there must be some clarification, because Lance feels that “we have been confusing motivation with inspiration”. The dictionary tells us that to motivate is to provide a motive; to induce, incite, impel. Inspiration, on the other hand, comes from the Latin word spirare – meaning spirit, to infuse with an encouraging or exulting influence, to animate, stimulation by divinity, a divine influence upon human beings, to give life, the breath of God. By definition, you can see that the two words do not mean the same thing; much less should they be used interchangeably in a sentence. Lance even goes further, by mentioning in his book, that as the words relate to leadership, these two words are polar opposites.

Motivation is something we “do” to someone; inspiration is something that is the result of a soulful relationship. Anyone who has had the privilege of working with a great mentor in their lives probably knows and appreciates the difference. The mentor is not in it for themselves; they are offering a gift to you, an act of love and service. Their generosity of spirit and their gift of learning is not only what inspires you, but what inspires the mentor as well. Motivation comes more from a place of self-concern – “I want to change your behavior with a reward or incentive, so that, if you meet the targets or goals I set for you, I will meet my own needs and goals.” When we motivate, we serve ourselves first; when we inspire, we serve others first. Motivation is about me and fear where inspiration is about you and love.

Let’s all take a page out of Lance’s book Inspire! What Great Leaders Do and start moving away from motivation and more towards inspiration – not just where leadership is concerned but with all aspects of our life. By working together, serving one another and inspiring each other to grow, we can make the world a better place!

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