I doubt this will be the only blog post I write about this topic since motivation is at the heart of what makes a true leader. But this is the first one. I started thinking about motivation after watching a brief news clip about Colonel (ret.) Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War. His story is just as amazing as you would expect from a MOH awardee. He was wounded with shrapnel, bleeding from his head, yet he went back into the battlefield and rescued 14 of his fellow soldiers before he collapsed and had to be taken out by medevac. When asked why he returned to the battlefield 14 times after he was bleeding profusely, he said, “I thought I was the only guy who could do anything… If the situation were reversed, [the men] would do the same for me.”
Col. Jacob’s was in the middle of battle and thought only of his men. His own pain was of little concern at that moment. His source of motivation was saving the lives of others. I believe that is the mark of a true leader. The purpose of his action was in no way self-serving, but purely for someone else. Many times, our decisions or our choices are made with some hint of self-preservation or self-centered thought in mind. I admit that I am just as guilty as anyone in that regard – it is part of our human nature. Looking back on my life, I notice that the times I’m at my best are the times I’m focused on something or someone else.
What does this mean for leadership? Should we all run out into the field of battle to be tested? Probably not the wisest of decisions, yet we should be grateful for all the men and women who do each day. However, we can each do our part in our own capacity, especially in business. I was told of a business owner who refuses to communicate with his people and has a rather dictatorial approach to his company. Now I am not personally acquainted with this business owner and cannot speak to the truth of the accusations, but I could clearly see the impact on the employees through our conversation. It appears to the employees as if this owner’s motivation is NOT the company and NOT the employees. The people I spoke with do their work and like their jobs (for the most part). The take away is this: Think about how much more powerful, energetic and ultimately more profitable this business could become if the owner’s motivation was shifted in a different direction.
CEO, The Professional Development Team