Motives of a True Leader

Leadership Platform has interviewed and profiled hundreds of top leaders from many walks of life.  We have been able to engage average leaders, good leaders, great leaders, and the very rare exceptional leader.  It is the last that I wish to refer to today

To begin this second instalment of our You(th) the Leader series, please answer the following question:  Do you want to be exceptional?  And then, because this is a leadership page, do you want to be an exceptional leader?

Your answer for both is probably a yes.

Truth be told, you cannot be one without the other.

So the next question to ask is:  What does it take to be an exceptional person and leader?

For each of us, being exceptional or successful means something different – we are all unique individuals with differing backgrounds, current circumstances, interests, and motives.  But is there a common factor or golden thread that we can use or draw upon that all exceptional/successful individuals have in common?  Yes, there is. In fact, there are a few, but we will highlight only one today.

Remember that in my last article I referred to “universal principles” (principles and actions that can be used anywhere, anytime that will help you create a successful outcome) – this is what we are going to speak about today:  a universal point of departure for our future, exceptional life.

Let’s reference last month’s You(th) the Leader article again:  Do you remember lesson one?

Leaders are in the business of creating movement.

The very first step in creating movement is to create a “why” within us, or within those we are attempting to lead.

A little while ago I returned from two years of volunteer work down in Kwa-Zulu Natal.  The majority of these two years were spent in the townships of Madadeni (Newcastle), KwaMashu (Durban), and Esikhawini (Richards Bay).  Initially it was difficult to serve in these areas because I was in a world that was very different to anything I had experienced before.  The place was different, the culture was different, and the people were different.  But, everything changed after I heard the following quote:  “Tell me sufficiently why a thing ought to be done, and I will move heaven and earth to do it.”

Did you pick up our universal principle?  Yes, it is the why.  And so, amidst my culture shock, I was able to find a golden thread that helped me more easily understand and connect with many amazing people, all united in their desire to build better lives and better futures.

So in order to create movement, we need to begin by putting into place a sufficiently appropriate ‘Why’.  This is called MOTIVATION.  If your motivation for doing something is poor or weak, you will probably start with that something but will not see it to its end.  If your motivation has a poor foundation, when trouble or resistance comes, you will probably give up.  But if your motivation is pure and strong, no matter what comes your way, you will push through and accomplish that which you have undertaken.  As a leader, you need to ensure that your people are correctly motivated.

Many people try to create motivation through presenting something exciting, or by creating a mood and environment that is high in energy.  While this may contribute towards  motivation, on its own it will be  weak  and will not last.  How do we create more lasting  motivation?  How do we keep ourselves and others focused and motivated for a much longer period of time?  To do this, we must understand who we are, and who they are.  We need to understand what we truly value, and what they value most in their lives.  A person that does not like sport will not be motivated by the idea of watching a soccer or rugby game; or an employee may work because he loves his or her job, and will not be motivated much by more pay.  Each of these people VALUE something more than another thing – this is very important to understand and consider when attempting to motivate someone.

So, today’s lesson is:

In order to create movement, there must be motivation.

Let’s solidify this with one more example:  Why do you brush your teeth consistently, every day? And that reason is your motivation to perform that act – and that act is referred to as movement.

Leadership Platform has interviewed and profiled hundreds of top leaders from many walks of life.  We have been able to engage average leaders, good leaders, great leaders, and the very rare exceptional leader.  It is the last that I wish to refer to today.

Last time we introduced you to the concept of Seamless Leadership.  A Seamless Leader is the ultimate type of leader.  And Seamless Leaders value, and are motivated by, certain things.  These include:  The BIG Picture of life, and how their actions impact this big picture; they value integrity, lasting happiness, good relationships, and their abilities to help people, their organisation and society achieve  full potential, more than they value money, power, and status.  Mostly their motivation comes from inside them, rather than from the outside. The interesting thing is that if leaders are truly Seamless in the way they think and act, money, and power, and status are more likely to gravitate towards them.  The difference is that if you took these things away, it wouldn’t deter them or detract from who they are.

So do you know what motivates you?  Do you know what you truly value?  If you are unclear about this, or simply want to further define this for yourself, then let’s do the following exercise together:

Please would you go grab a notebook and a pen.

Now, in your mind’s eye, go forward in time about 50 or 60 years (for some of us it will be much less of course).  You are at your own funeral.  Imagine what people are saying about you. And now, please take 10 minutes and write down the things you wish they were saying about you.

That which you have written is directly linked to your values, what matters most to you, or what motivates you.  As you carefully consider each point and item, write down some key things you will have to do and be in order to achieve those things.

You now have some motivation and direction.

And we’ll talk more about direction in the next You(th) the Leader instalment.

Always remember, in order to create sustained movement in your own life, you will need to be properly motivated. And in order to lead others, you will need to help motivate them correctly as well.

This article appeared in the:

The Workplace

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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