He is considered one of the all-time greatest golfers and has dominated the sport for decades, not only in gameplay but also in charisma and followership. Fans described as his army exploded in cheers when he closed in on one of his many titles. His entrance into and dominance of the game couldn’t be more curious, given he grew up in a small Pennsylvanian steel mill town and was a paint seller before he turned pro.
Even his swing was uniquely his, not representative of the past greats like Ben Hogan. No, Arnie Palmer was an anomaly to the game, and many of his victories were attributable to his sheer will and determination to win. He’s one of the very few who brought the game of golf into its present-day popularity. Even after his passing five years ago, sports commentators still reflect on Arnie and his gameplay and how relatable he was to his army!
I’ve often written about leadership and the importance of emotionally connecting with your followers. Leadership means not only having a vision but also requires an identifiable pathway to achieve it. Just as important is communicating the vision and inspiring your followers to collectively achieve results they would otherwise be unable to on their own. You can’t effectively do this without knowing what makes each of them tick — in other words, what motivates them. Leaders who understand what motivates their followers are far more likely to pursue the right opportunities for the right reasons and get the results they desire.
At the beginning of the 20th century, German philosopher and psychologist Dr. Eduard Spranger published a book that discussed six core attitudes present in every person. American psychologist Gordon Allport expanded his research some 40 years later, adding the seventh attitude. Their collaborative study resulted in findings explaining what drives and motivates people. Understanding these dimensions through self-awareness provides a clear course on maximizing performance by better aligning with your passion for what you do and your behavior. As a leader, you relate to your followers by knowing what motivates them and how you can inspire them to exploit this.
Your followers’ motivational interests are a combination to varying degrees of these seven dimensions. The aesthetic is a drive for balance, harmony and form. Economic is a drive for a return on investment. Individualism is a drive to stand out as independent and unique. Power is a drive to be in control or have influence. Altruism is a drive to help others at the expense of self. Regulatory is a drive to establish order, routine and structure. Theoretical is a drive for knowledge, learning and understanding. Motivation is a compelling emotion, when singled out and leveraged, that produces phenomenal results.
Being able to relate to your followers becomes all that more important when you understand what motivates them.
We’ve had discussions with many CEOs regarding compensation. The conversation goes like this: The CEO explains she is trying to increase the productivity of her senior leadership team and dangles healthy bonuses to motivate them to perform. She believes her vision is evident, as is her communication to act. However, she sees sporadic improvement with some and almost none with others. She’s perplexed why this isn’t working. I ask her what motivates each of her senior leaders? Money, of course, she responds. Her assumption is faulty, and one many business leaders make. Imagine each member of her leadership team is motivated by something other than money, perhaps power, altruism, individualism, and money is the least important motivating factor. No matter how much money she was to dangle to increase their productivity, they’re not inspired to change their behavior nor actions. She’s not relating to them, doesn’t understand what makes each of them tick.
Team strength and cohesion congeal when a leader appropriately determines what motivates its members and inspires them to achieve a common goal. Relating to each person on a one-to-one basis is the how and what to leadership. The why is understanding their motivational drivers because that’s where their purpose lies. Find their purpose, and you’ll know how to inspire them.
It was exciting and fascinating to watch Arnie’s Army follow him to victory. The energy was palpable, and it was hard not to get caught up in the wake of his enthusiasm! He had the uncanny ability to relate to his army, and they chose to follow him anywhere. You, too, can develop an ardent army of followers, relate to them by understanding their motivators and leverage them to achieve exponential results. This is how you lead, think, plan, and act. Now, let’s get after it!
Retired Col. Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions. Paul and Lisa mentor and coach business owners on leadership and management principles in achieving and sustaining their business growth and profitability goals. He can be reached at [email protected].