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on personal motivation

Last week I was musing on teams, but the question of what motivates the leader is always worth considering, especially when the leader is you. Just like everyone else leaders have bad days, even bad weeks, but have to hide that from the troops as best as they can because the rot will spread. Whatever is going on inside the world needs to see a positive attitude.

One of the hardest things that a leader has to face up to and find a way to conquer is fear. There is no getting away from it; everyone will be afraid at some point and failure is probably the biggest cause of fear. It is important here to look at failure from two perspectives; failures through a mistake, making the wrong call or whatever, is something that you should embrace because you can learn from these things. There may be bad consequences, but you still can look at why you made the wrong decision and do better next time.

The other form of failure comes from where you fail to act, to not do something that you knew needed doing, but just let it slide. The fear then move to the consequences and, let’s be honest, if you pull this one then you deserve what you get. You ought to learn from this too though, the lesson being that, as the leader, you have to face whatever the job throws at you. The old adage of if you can’t stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen was never more apt.

Motivation for a leader may come from material things; car, money, fringe benefits, power and the like. At the core should always be a desire to do the best that you can though and to improve all the while. Managing fear will come though all of that and one driver will be your ambition.

Looking back I don’t know where my ambition came from and it certainly rarely ever seemed to have any focus. As a small boy I wanted to be a coach driver; it seemed wonderful to me to be able to take people on trips that gave such pleasure whilst also getting to drive what I thought were the most wonderful vehicles. That faded to be replaced by becoming a pilot and that looked, briefly, as though there might have been a chance, but it didn’t work out. By then I had begun to experience the careers advice offered at school and had decided that I wanted to be a manager. I had no idea as to what they did, but going to work in a suit, having a nice car, an office and a secretary all seemed attractive.

Others had the same idea about me as I later came to understand and worked hard on developing me in that direction. I was an organiser in my teens and was given responsibility at school that I did not understand the significance of for many years. It was only when I was into the development of others that I started to understand some of the opportunities that I had wasted, or at least not fully grasped, in my younger days.

Eventually I made it, going all the way from the shop floor to the boardroom. The two things that seemed to drive me, and that I thrived on, was having responsibility and influence. They were my motivators even if it did take me time to recognise their influence. But I think that underpinning all motivating factors is that you need to be hungry for success and to do what you need to to earn it.

I did, at times specialise at work. I have four professional qualifications in IT, Purchasing Facilities Management and Logistics each of which was acquired when I was specialising in those areas, but the common thread was that I was a decent organiser, or manager, and got things done. I established a reputation through project delivery, but was equally successful at routine operations and still regard myself as a generalist rather than a specialist.

For me I was fortunate in that I had a lot of training along the way. The opportunities to learn were always grasped with both hands right from my first school days and I still, aged 68, will grab any opportunity to try something new that comes my way. How you motivate yourself is something that you must find. Don’t sweat it too much, but do try and see if you can understand what makes you tick and channel it to you advantage.

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