The Leadership formula

The Leadership formula

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at








The Leadership Formula

By Mark Wager 

The two questions that every leader needs to answer

Motivation is one of the most powerful forces in the world; it gets us up in the morning, it takes us to work and gives us the desire to achieve our dreams that is when it is working. When we are lacking motivation then minutes feel like hours and our dreams stay just that, dreams.

As a leader we are entrusted with the responsibility of motivating people around us, a group of individuals each with different personalities, priorities, ambitions and dreams. We often forget that not everyone has the same drive and passion as we do and we easily fall into the trap of getting frustrated with people who don’t share that same vision.

Motivating ourselves can be difficult let alone other people but why? Why do some people respond positively to a pep talk yet others seem to be reluctant to leave their comfort zone? It’s a difficult puzzle because motivation is incredibly personal and unique to an individual but there is a simple solution. There is a formula that explains how motivation is produced and a correct understanding of this formula will help you motivate not only your team but yourself as well, sounds too simple well it’s like everything in life; solutions are easy it’s the getting there that’s difficult.

Discomfort + Hope = Motivation

A mind produces motivation when there’s a balance of discomfort and hope. Without discomfort there’s no reason to change and without hope there’s no reason to believe we should try and there are your two questions that need to be answered what’s the reason to change? And is there enough belief to try? 

It’s the balance of discomfort and hope that makes us motivated so let’s look at each one in more detail

Discomfort: What’s the reason to change?

If a person feels that everything is ok then why would they consider changing? Too often we assume that people share our concerns and are fully aware of the consequences if their behaviour continues but they usually don’t, they think that “It’s not that bad” or “It’s not that serious” which means that their discomfort is too low so the balance is wrong and no motivation is being produced. In these circumstances it’s not until the situation gets serious and you start talking disciplinary action that realisation sets in but by then a lot of time and effort has been exhausted and in some cases your relationship with that person is damaged. You need to understand people’s perception of what is happening and compare it to your own. Test their perceptions by asking them “what’s the reason to change?” most people will look at your bizarrely and reply “well because you’ve told me to” this is a red flag, a warning sign, true motivation is very personal and any true reason to change has to be likewise a personal reason. Probe until you get an answer that turns from “you” to “I” ‘I don’t want to let everyone down”, ‘I want to be successful” once they understand that the state they want to be in is not the state they currently are at then we are creating discomfort, but not too much. How many times have you seen a staff member leave a manager’s office  upset or physically shaking after a Managers tirade, not too many times I hope, but it does happen that the law is laid down so heavily that discomfort goes too high, again creating imbalance and no motivation is created.

A person needs to have a realistic projection of where their current behaviours will take them. Then and only then is there enough discomfort to generate change.

Hope: Is there enough belief to try?

Regardless of what level of discomfort someone is feeling or how much they want to change nothing will work without hope. In every single case you will see that belief proceeds evidence, people have to believe that something is achievable before they can actually do it. As a leader you need to check that there is enough belief in order to balance the discomfort. If the person does not believe that they can do it then there’s no balance and the mind doesn’t generate motivation. How many times have you heard people say ‘I didn’t think I could do it” self-destructing before they have even started there’s no wonder that they failed yet surprisingly having too much belief can be equally destructive, over-confidence trips up all of us eventually.

Hope is generated when the self-image of that person is perceived to be capable of achieving the necessary goal. Remember self-image is different to self-esteem you only have one self-esteem but you can have many self-images one for each situation you find yourself in. You may have a positive self-image of yourself for delivering a presentation on a topic that you are an expert on but a very poor self-image of you dancing the salsa for the first time.

Self-esteem is how you value yourself; Self-image is how you see yourself

If the reality of what is required doesn’t match the self-image then the mind generates tension until they are both matched. Ask your staff if they believe they can do this and study the reply, look for reasons that are personal and directed towards them ‘I believe because I can...” Once you hear this then you know that genuine realistic hope is present.

Motivation is a very personal and powerful source but it is our responsibility as leaders to help people as well as ourselves to find that delicate balance of discomfort and hope, once that balance is found then not only do we have the courage to chase our dreams but we have the passion to make them a reality.


This article is taken from the book "Elite Leadership". Click the picture below to purchase through Amazon

About the Author:

Mark Wager is New Zealand's leading Leadership Coach. To contact Mark regarding Leadership Coaching, MBTI Team Building or Team Building use the enquiry form below


Posted: Monday 6 May 2013