What Makes A Leader: Motivating the Team to Achieve

Jaclyn Crawford Foresight, What Makes A Leader? Leave a Comment

CMO of The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business explains how good leaders keep their teams focused on the common goal by empowering (not forcing) them.

Famed management thinker Peter Drucker astutely noted that you cannot lead without followers.  And you cannot make people follow you for an extended period of time, unless you are the leader of a dictatorship. So how do you get people to want to follow you?

To answer that question, I reflected on those in my career who I wanted to follow, and examined their common characteristics.  Two transformational leaders who greatly influenced my management style are John Bickham, Chief Operating Officer of Charter Communications, and Eric Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer of California TeleHealth Network. Each showed me how to effectively lead by example, overcome adversity, invite diverse opinions and drive to a decision, while demonstrating strong empathy, empowerment, support, grace under pressure and, to borrow from Lewis Carroll, to “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

WhatMakesaLeader_smallLeadership Model

Throughout my career, I have sought to live up to the tenets of the Michigan Model of Leadership, developed at the University of Michigan and built upon the Competing Values Framework of Bob Quinn and Kim Cameron, first articulated in the 1980s. The Michigan Model of Leadership focuses on development of a core purpose, core values—empathy, drive, integrity and courage—and an action orientation.

For an organization to succeed, it usually requires the alignment and achievement of more than one or two individuals. Therefore, the determination of success will be how well the individuals in that organization can function together as a team to achieve or exceed a specified goal. Change management expert John Kotter described leadership as involving the setting of direction as well as the alignment and motivation of people.

The idea of a leader “ordering” the troops to succeed, or threatening them if they do not, is not a compelling motivator. What does determine success? Getting the individuals on the team to want to achieve a common goal, to help craft and create the goal, and to see themselves as integral to delivering on the goal. And, because the best and most innovative ideas usually come from the people closest to the customers and the marketplace, it is critical to embrace a philosophy of listening, learning, including, embracing, collaborating and supporting.

Ultimately, the leader should not be seeking followers, but rather should be seeking to create an environment where others are empowered to share in the responsibility of the process and the desired result.

This does not mean the leader can’t or won’t make and execute the tough decisions.  The leader delegates, but does not abdicate control.

1, 2, 3, Motivate

In my experience, I have found three key elements to motivation:

1.   Win-Win. Show how the desired goal benefits the person, the team and the organization. Benefits are often both extrinsic (i.e., financial reward, promotion, status) and intrinsic (i.e., satisfaction, personal growth, making a positive difference). Find the common ground, the common goal.

2.   Empower. Show someone how the first time, work with them the second time and “set them free” the third time, with support mechanisms in place as needed.

3.   Recognize people for their performance. They deserve and will appreciate the rewards, loyalty and respect provided.

So, what makes an effective leader? Someone with the ability to guide, motivate and support others to create the desired result for the organization and its people. Someone who creates and fosters an environment of trust and collaboration so that creativity and innovation can thrive and results exceed expectations.



John Trierweiler is Chief Marketing Officer at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He was featured in Issue No. 8 of Forefront.

Comments, thoughts, feedback?