Intrinsic Motivation And Leadership

Understanding motivation is a powerful tool for improving leadership. Let’s begin by demystifying motivation in relation to behavioral science. I know, from 20 years as a development professional, some people and leaders find motivation to be fluff without substance. So, think about associating the concept of motivation as ‘drive’ towards any purpose: if your fridge is empty you’ll likely drive to a store to stock up produce or groceries. Everyone has drive towards purpose. And generally speaking we can put intrinsic motivation initially into 3 categories.


Chemical or biological – If you’re hungry you’re going to eat.

External – Being motivated by reward, recognition or punishment

Intrinsic – Self-realisation, autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


As a leader, the 2 types you can focus on through leadership are leveraging the external and intrinsic, with the latter being the more powerful. After all, which goals are you passionately driven to achieve: ones someone else decides or tells you to do or the ones you’ve discovered and set yourself.

So now lets dive into better understanding intrinsic motivators. Imagine for a moment if you were to independently ask all individuals in your team an ideal travel destination, chances are you’ll get a variety of answers with possibly no 2 the same. What you would get though would be patterns: Rome and Venice are different destinations yet they fall under Italy and the broader brochure known as Europe.

A key secret to therefore motivating and leading your team is to learn that intrinsic motivators also still fall under similar ‘brochures’. And, like the continents, 6 categories, based on Workplace Motivators tool:


Knowledge – Love to learn, including new skills and personal development

Utility – Best use of resources, including maximizing ROI, money and time

Social – Driven to help or support others, professionally or philanthropically

Individualistic – Devising and implementing a personal winning strategy

Aesthetic – New experiences and adventures, (including travel!)

Traditional – Living by a set of values and principles


Once you learn to discover the truest, intrinsic motivators of your people you can then tailor or adapt external rewards & recognition (or even general language, positioning or context of any messages) to appeal to their driving ‘why’.

In business, I find a common mistake in leadership frequently is assuming the same motivator for everyone: In sales environments that misnomer frequently being associated with money, or ‘Utility’, as the primary motivation.

The final point with motivation to consider is that, again, like a favorite or preferred travel destinations, primary motivators may change over periods of time so be sure to regularly check in.

Motivation is a theme we cover quite extensively in the online academy. You can find a breadth of modules and workbooks in  the Leadership catalogue, ‘Thought Tank’ program. I’ve also designed a continually available profile to get seasonally rotating taster content from the primary subscription catalogues of the academy. Then, when you’re comfortable, you can elect the relevant academies for your personal growth

Click Here To Get Your Free Complimentary Profile To Start


Motivation is a recurring theme throughout the first book ‘Ignite Your Potential’.

The book is available within the store  here in print version, e-book version and audio book version.

Intrinsic Motivation

Article resource written for Travel Bulletin and published in the Feb 2017 edition.

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