Lesson #3: Leadership is not JUST Bossiness

The Arizona Center for Innovation has a series of learning sessions to mentor your company to launch. I found most of them quite useful and informative. One of the most memorable for me was Creating Your Dream Team, all about finding the right support for your company at the right time. In this session, one of the mentors spoke about elements necessary for great leadership. There was a slide in his talk, that had three cogs that mesh together of different sizes, two small, labeled “Setting Direction” and “Finding People and Aligning Them” and one large, labeled “Motivation”.

For me this was a HUGE learning moment!

I have led a number of small clubs and groups over the years. I brought lots of enthusiasm to the table, and usually a vision or two, with a whole lot of plans. But at the end of the day, in every situation I felt that I’ve sucked at leadership. I felt I was missing something. I felt that all I did was tell people what to do (Setting Direction). And I often got the impression that that no one wanted to do those things. That lead to me doing everything myself because I hate pissing people off, which lead to burnout and general crankiness about the club or group.

Here it was, obvious to some, but I was oblivious and missing something key all these years, those two other cogs…Motivation and Finding People (finding the right person for the right job)!

In particular, I am quite interested in learning about Motivation, as I just have not truly considered its importance until this point.

Before you say “duh!” I feel I have to explain about my Midwestern background. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In a typical Midwestern family, your dad is the “head of the family” (yes, many people are still quite conservative in the Midwest). Mine still sits in the same chair for dinner, at the head of the table, even now when we visit. So, when your dad gives you a direction, you do it, because it is part of being in the family. Also, you do this because he will yell at you in a scary way if you don’t do it! Of course, when you are older, you realize how hard he works for his family so this arrangement feels just. Maybe its a holdover from farm life, or a holdover from living where it is really cold, so everyone has to work together harder to survive. Or it’s a German/Scandinavian thing. I love my dad dearly and he is a very sweet man. But “head of the family bossy dad” is definitely part of Midwestern culture and I lived through it.

Anyway, this carries over to work life. My husband’s family has moved near us in Tucson and we Govier ladies have all made the observation that we work harder than most of our co-workers. We hate talking to our friends at work if it is not lunchtime or break, never use social media at work, work extra hours to complete a project, rarely late, and extra, extra detail-oriented.

We have an uncanny fear of the boss. We do our job at our best because it is part of being in a family, even though that family is really the company. Even if we are not so happy with the company, the point is to do a good job no matter what. It is hard for us not to do it. That is what I know of motivation. Fear of the boss, because you are part of a larger family.

From our mentor’s talk, I got the impression that there must be a lot more to motivation than that. It was a really big break in understanding for me. I know it sounds like a simple lesson, but I never before considered that there are various flavors to motivation. Being self-motivated (by being afraid of the boss), I never stopped to think that there was any more to it. I now imagine that when you work with others, understanding what motivates them is key to working well together and getting things done.

So, my big lesson about motivation…all of those motivational business posters I’ve seen over the years…well, when you see that much artwork about something it is pointing out something important. I guess I should have not made fun of them quite so much in my teens and twenties – I am seeing how important and interesting the subject is.


About LornaGovier

Lorna Govier lives in Tucson, AZ.
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