Leadership motivation. The pursuit of power

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

25 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Motivation
2.1 Definition and forms of motivation
2.2 Motivation process

3 Leadership motivation: The role of power
3.1 Definition of leadership
3.2 Motives to lead
3.2.1 Main human motives
3.2.2 Motive profile of leaders
3.2.3 Effective orientation of leading power

4 Summary and implications

List of figures

Figure 1: Determinants and course of the motivation process

Figure 2: From the power-driven motive profile to leadership effectivenes

1 Introduction

Numerous recent studies have revealed that the success of organizations largely depend on the motivation and achievement potential of its employees[1]. In this regard, leaders hold a key role since motivated employees are one of the most important results of effective leadership. Therefore, a company`s success story begins with the selection of good and effective leaders who are motivated themselves and possess the ability to motivate their followers to successfully reach the collective business mission.[2] The questions at issue are: What makes an effective leader? What characterizes the motivation to lead? Is successful leadership a product of coincidence or does some common grounds exist? Concerning this matter, motivation theory holds very few insights into the motivation to lead. For a start, empirical studies have revealed that outstanding leaders, regardless of their leadership style, have one thing in common: They all have a strong inner desire for power in the first place. Without this pursuit of power a person will not make an effective leader even when first-class training is provided and as a result, companies will experience great losses due to unmotivated employees through inadequate leadership.[3] Therefore, getting an insight into power motives is crucial for understanding the motivation to lead.

The present paper focuses on the importance of power motivation on the effectiveness of leadership which results in the description of successful leaders and thereby, offering companies a basis for understanding individuals with the appropriate reasons to take up a leading position.

The topic is introduced by providing a brief overview of motivation and its underlying processes. The subsequent part reveals the interrelation between effective leadership and power motivation by giving a short introduction into leadership, followed by some insights into the motives to lead. Finally, a summary and implications for leadership motivation and leader selection in a corporate environment are presented.

2 Motivation

This part constitutes the fundamentals for understanding the motivation to lead by providing a definition of motivation accompanied by the illustration of the different forms and development of this phenomenon.

2.1 Definition and forms of motivation

Motivation is a basic, cognitive concept of psychology for explaining special behavioral characteristics by asking how and what for people act in particular ways[4]. The term motivation refers to the latin word “movere” which can be translated into got oneself going[5]. This translation gives a hint of what motivation may be but it is not adequate for describing the entire mechanism with its associated complexity behind it. Motivation rather defines the process that introduces, leads and maintains goal-oriented behaviors[6]. Nevertheless, motivation is not to be mistaken with the behavior itself. It rather describes the individual choice of action which is influenced by internal and external driving forces, to satisfy a need.[7] In that perspective, motivation refers to the individual`s capacity to experience fulfillment from a specific set of stimuli[8].

Motivation theory distinguishes two types of motivation due to the fact that they result in different outcomes. Firstly, intrinsic motivation elicits satisfaction by the mere act of performing a task. Consequently, an intrinsically motivated person participates in certain activities as a means to an end.[9] On the contrary, extrinsic motivation, like the term already indicates, comes from outside the individual. Hence, an extrinsically motivated person does not engage in an activity for its own sake but in order to receive economic rewards or to avoid punishment.[10] Motivation theorists stress the importance of intrinsic motivation. According to them, only the inner aroused type of motivation might cause the complete unfolding of one’s abilities.[11] In other words, it has been shown that intrinsic motivation is conducive concerning the quality of task performance and experience[12]. All in all, intrinsic motivation keeps you at your best while extrinsic motivation lets you work only well enough to get the reward[13].

2.2 Motivation process

To understand the following descriptions, an explanatory note is needed: The concept of motivation is one of the most complex phenomena in the field of psychology because of the multifaceted approaches of explanation that exist and their own interpretation and sub-theories of motivation. The main theories can be classified either into need-theories or into process-theories[14]. Need-theories examine the initial behavior that starts motivation[15], whereas process-theories explain how motivation affects human actions in choice, effort and persistence[16]. The term paper at hand enlightens the approaches of the need perspective on motivation and thereby provides insights into the reasons that drive human behavior.

The fundamental components that introduce the motivation process are needs, motives and situational cues[17].

Figure 1: Determinants and course of the motivation process

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: According to Rheinberg 1995, p. 69.

Each course of motivated action is initiated by an unsatisfied need. In this regard, needs represent an internal force that arouses behavior towards action to fulfill and release this need.[18] There exist two forms of needs: Primary and secondary needs. Primary needs are inherent needs which result from physiological state of stress such as hunger and thirst. These physiological drives ensure the human survival and for that reason take priority over other needs.[19] In contrast, secondary or psychogenic needs are learnt through culture-specific socialization and are related to our personality. Needs like social appreciation, dominance and autonomy fall into this category.[20] Furthermore, human needs tend to fluctuate in intensity. As a result, needs that are high in intensity activate human beings to behave in a way that satisfies or decrease these needs.[21] This process can be influenced by situational cues that indicate which situations have a good chance of fulfilling a need and making the salience and intensity of a need urgent[22]. If such a situation allows a person to take a need serious, then a motive comes into existence. However, while motives are based upon needs, needs do not necessarily arouse motives. If needs are perceived as acute, they will become motives and consequently induce action.[23]

Per definition motives are needs which are likely to get satisfied. In other words, motives are behavioral dispositions which create emotional excitement that lead to goal-directed activities.[24] Human behavior follows from the combination of several motives. All motives together present a part of people`s personality and appear in individual, person-based motivational structures.[25] Two types of motives can be distinguished: Explicit and implicit motives. Implicit human motives per definition are inherent motives which combine situational signals with basic emotional reactions and implicit behavioral trends.[26] This kind of motives refers to unconscious human needs and reflects long-term and deep- rooted affinities or prepossession towards certain kinds of satisfactory experiences[27]. In contrast, explicit motives are conscious motives, which are influenced by external factors like social demands. These motives have a strong impact on cognitive choices as well as on goal-setting in the short run and thereby direct the way in which implicit motives are expressed.[28] In the best case, implicit and explicit motives come to an agreement. In the opposite case, the discrepancy between these two kinds of motive systems lead to an incompatible human behavior which results in an intra-personal conflict situation that causes performance deficits, preference reversal and in the worst case health problems.[29] Consequently, explicit motives need to be consistent with implicit motives to lead to effective performance, intrinsic motivation and well-being[30]. Therefore, it is crucial to identify humans underlying, implicit motives to determine their behavioral tendencies and align them with adequate explicit motives.

In summary, the complex interaction of needs and different activated motives in concrete, stimulatory situations finally represents motivation[31].

In the further course of this paper, the examination of behavior during extreme physiological deprivation is neglected since in industrial countries basic human needs are peripheral to psychogenic order needs[32]. Hence, particular attention is paid to higher organized behavior of human beings which arouse from secondary needs and motives. By sharpening the understanding of these long-term preferences for specific classes of personal states, it shows which motive profile characterizes effective leaders in contrast to non-effective leaders.

3 Leadership motivation: The role of power

The third part of this paper reveals the relationship between leadership and power motivation by answering the following questions: What connects leadership and power? What kind of individuals like to lead others and thereby motivate their followers? How does the motive profile of an effective leader looks like?

3.1 Definition of leadership

Before examining what makes an effective leader, a general definition of leadership is needed.

Leadership describes an influence relationship among a leader and his or her employees. In this process leaders guide their followers to make use of their knowledge and skills to serve a shared purpose of a company and thereby reach a common goal.[33] Here, it is important to emphasize that good leadership make employees want to follow and do their work out of freewill. Moreover, effective leaders develop commitment among their members of staff which results in employees’ energy and satisfaction to account for the company`s success.[34] It becomes obvious that the concept of leadership predominantly refers to power by imposing social influence on followers in an organizational setting to motivate and enable them to respond to a particular set of circumstances and achieve worthwhile objectives [35].

Another important aspect is that leadership should not be mistaken with management. The crucial difference is while management deals with complexity, leadership initiates and copies with change[36]. Management is result-oriented and describes the effort to control the organization by keeping its order. In contrast, leadership is goal-oriented and deals with setting new directions for a group of employees.[37] As a result leadership acknowledges an important role in today’s companies attributable to the fact that a volatile and highly competitive business environment demands an ongoing organizational change and thereby requires more effective leadership[38].


[1] Hitt et al. 2001, p. 14; Ruzzier et al. 2007, p. 17.

[2] Shamir et al. 1998, p. 388.

[3] McClelland 1975, pp. 261; McClelland/ Burnham 1976, pp. 101.

[4] Rheinberg 1995, p. 59; Heckhausen/Heckhausen 2006, pp. 1.

[5] Berl/ Williamson 1987, p. 53.

[6] Rheinberg 2008, p. 14.

[7] Mitchell 1982, p. 81.

[8] Jolibert/ Baumgartner 1997, p. 677.

[9] Wong-On-Wing et al. 2010, p. 142.

[10] Calder/ Staw 1975, p. 599; Deci 1975, p. 23.

[11] Amabile 1997, p. 55; Goleman 2004, p. 88.

[12] Fox 1983, pp. 285; Ryan/ Deci 2000, p. 70.

[13] Benabou/ Tirole 2003, p. 492.

[14] Deci/ Ryan 2000, pp. 227.

[15] Berl/ Williamson 1987, p. 53.

[16] Appley 1970, p. 156; Locke/ Latham 2004, p. 388.

[17] Murray 1938, pp. 37; Rheinberg 1995, p. 69.

[18] Murray 1938, p. 124.

[19] Maslow 1943, p. 374.

[20] Steel/ König 2006, p. 895.

[21] Steel/ König 2006, p. 896.

[22] Lewin 1963, p. 271.

[23] Locke/ Latham 2004, pp. 389.

[24] Davis 1962, p. 3.

[25] Winter et al 1998, pp. 230.

[26] McClelland et al. 1953, pp. 67.

[27] Maslow 1943, pp. 370.

[28] Murray 1938, p. 45; McClelland 1985, pp. 590; Koestner et al. 1991, pp. 57.

[29] Koestner et al. 1991, p. 78; Bazerman et al. 1998, pp. 225.

[30] Deci/ Ryan, 2000, p. 231.

[31] Locke/ Latham 2004, pp. 389.

[32] Yalch/ Brunel 1996, p. 406.

[33] House/ Baetz 1979, pp. 341.

[34] House/ Podsakoff 1994, pp. 47.

[35] Yukl 2006, p. 145.

[36] Kotter 2001, p. 86.

[37] Manikandan 2010, pp. 5.

[38] Kotter 2001, p. 89.

Excerpt out of 25 pages


Leadership motivation. The pursuit of power
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)  (Lehrstuhl für BWL)
Masterseminar zum Thema Führung
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ISBN (eBook)
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Master of Science Ina Glüsing (Author), 2011, Leadership motivation. The pursuit of power, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/230870


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