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Engagement: The Second “E” in the L.E.A.D.E.R.S. Model

E stands for engagement.

  1. Leaders do not motivate, but they create an environment where people are motivated (and not demotivated) to do their best work.

  2. Money is not the only motivator, and sometimes not the main motivator for people to produce excellence, especially for long term performance.

  3. Leaders must assume that not everyone is motivated by the same factors that motivate them. Rather, they get to know each team member to understand what motivates him or her.

Peter Drucker once said, “Management’s job is to find out what they are doing that keeps people from doing their best work and stop doing it.”

In the transformational leadership model, there is a concept called individualized consideration. That includes the practice of challenging people to think outside the box and to empower them with the freedom to take on a task and do it in a way they feel is best. During this process, the leader shows empathy and support and maintains regular communication. Leaders are not afraid to celebrate the successes of their followers and give credit where credit is due. When leaders do these things, then their followers are engaged: contributing their creativity and energy without reservation, managing themselves rather than waiting on someone else to manage or direct their work.

The issue of rewards has been debated and studied where work motivation is concerned. The concept of rewards such pay, perks, awards and recognition are generally referred to as extrinsic motivators. Most studies show that money is not a good motivator where work is concerned, particularly in the long run. In fact, in many cases, money can hinder creativity and commitment. Thus, companies have pursued a course to discover the right mix of money, bonuses and other rewards to get the desired results from employees.

It is our contention that no one works solely for money. As you read that statement, you may respond by asking, “Are you kidding? No one would work for free; everyone needs to get paid.” While that’s true, let us explain our rationale for making that unusual statement. As we do, we acknowledge the impact that Alfie Kohn’s seminal work in Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes has had on our approach to engagement.

We would argue that almost no one works for money, but rather they work for what the money represents. Those who work take their salary and exchange it for goods and services. Those may include housing, food, vacations, retirement, college education, entertainment and the like. If someone is working so they can take their annual trip to the Super Bowl for vacation, then their motivation is that trip, not the money.

What are the implications for employee engagement if our theory that no one works for money is correct? The implications are that leadership must discover what does motivate their team members to work, and do all that leadership can to cooperate with those motivations. That requires leadership realizing that “one size does not fit everyone,” for the motivations for work will be different for each person.

What’s more, people regularly work for free when they volunteer their services to an organization with which they closely identify. There are a host of things that motivate people – a sense of order and organization, happy customers, adding up numbers that produce accurate reports, just to name a few—and if leadership can match those motivations with the tasks at hand, then the workforce will be engaged.

We are proponents of the book entitled Intrinsic Motivation at Work: What Really Drives Employee Engagement by Kenneth W. Thomas. In his book, Thomas describes the need for human beings to find purpose in their work, which requires purposeful leadership—leaders who understand this and work to provide that purpose beyond the need to feed families and have health benefits.

Thomas highlights four intrinsic rewards that must be present for the employees to be engaged:

  1. Meaningfulness—employees must have an idea of how their work fits into the meaning of the company’s vision and mission.

  2. Choice—workers must have a say in how their work will be done, especially if they have the expertise necessary to do the job.

  3. Competency—employees must have a chance to improve their skills and grow professionally.

  4. Progress—workers must be able to see that their work progress toward the desired outcome with reasonable speed.

An effective leader works to understand what motivates each employee, and then strives to create an engaged work environment where people are given roles and responsibilities that allow them to regularly perform according to their strengths and interests.

Dr. James Dittmar is the Founder, President, and CEO of the 3Rivers Leadership Institute which began in 2014.




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