Motivation: The Enemy Without or Within?

Womenable has long been a fan of quizzical juxtapositions, point-counterpoints, and making connections that don’t initially seem to fit. Must be our youthful obsession with assembling jigsaw puzzles manifesting itself in our present day activities. Anyway, we recently read two articles about leadership and team motivation that drew quite contrasting conclusions. We’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to guess which viewpoint Womenable subscribes to.

  • Viewpoint #1 – A common enemy: Many business bloggers and writers wax eloquent about the business genius of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He is well-known as a superb and well-practiced pitchman for new products (although don’t get me started on the myopic naming of their most recent tech tool). He was also recently touted (see “Apple’s Steve Jobs: A Lesson in Motivating the Troops”) as a motivational speaker with his own employees, launching into an expletive-deleted tirade against Google’s “don’t be evil” mantra. The writer’s point? That great companies need to have an enemy, and that readiness for battle is a successful indicator of motivated employees.
  • Viewpoint #2 – A common goal: Contrast this viewpoint with business writer Daniel Pink’s new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, which comes to quite the opposite conclusion. Pink states that the old carrot-and-stick approach is best left back in the 20th century; that the new secret to ensuring staff motivation and employee satisfaction is to provide a broader, more meaningful work experience, one that contains three key elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

So, should firms motivate employees by uniting them against a common enemy, or help to light a fire within each and every employee? Maybe the latter requires a more complex approach, and maybe the path to business growth may not be as clear-cut or linear as a “slay-the-dragon” modus operandi. But I can’t help but wonder if that “business is a battle” viewpoint is one reason why there are no women on Apple’s board of directors, and why they seem not to have thought out the distaff derivations of their soon-to-market Kindle-buster.

This particular pair of contrasting viewpoints puts me in mind of that classic Walt Kelly Pogo cartoon quote (pictured above): “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

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