Motivation or Vision?

A few days ago I read this post on the Harvard Review Blog titled: “Don’t Live in a Half-Built House“. In it, Peter Bregman tries to make a point about leaders who need to do things now and not look at the future. Here is a little part:

David McClelland, a Harvard psychology professor, wrote the book on Human Motivation. It’s 688 pages long, but since the world might end in six months, I’ll give you the short version. Everyone is driven by three things:

1.Achievement (the desire to compete against increasingly challenging goals)

2.Affiliation (the desire to be liked/loved)


•Personalized (the desire for influence and respect for yourself)

•Socialized (the desire to empower others; to offer them influence and respect)

If people have the opportunity to achieve, affiliate and influence, they’ll be motivated and engaged. Even without a clear vision of the future. So instead of worrying about what life is going to be like tomorrow, focus on these three things today. Sit in your office for an hour and think, one by one, about each of your people (including yourself).

If I understand this correctly, Bregman tries to argue against leaders thinking about vision and concentrating on the future. Instead, he says, focus on the now. Talk to your people. ask them how they are doing. Make sure they are motivated.

Who can argue with that? After all, just a few days ago I wrote here that I don’t think there is an ultimate theory of motivation. I said I think the most important thing is to talk to people and ask them what they want.

But still. I think Bregman’s argument suffers from the trap of talking about leaders in management terms and about managers in leadership terms. Bregman is right that managers should focus on the now. On talking with their people. Because that is their role. Leaders, should focus on the future. Because they have a different role. And when manager try to implement leader’s role in dealing with their people on a day to day basis, you get these mixed results Bregman argues against.

So, are you talking to your people as a leader or as a manger? are you focusing on motivation or on vision? What should you be focusing on?


One Response to “Motivation or Vision?”

  1. How does a Judo Fighter act at home? « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] I touched upon a number of times in this blog. The difference between managers and leaders, the expectation that all managers will do both and the problems that this approach […]

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