Business Leadership Today

Unlocking Potential: Why Effective Leadership Is So Important To Employees


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Effective leadership is about more than delegation and addressing conflict. It’s about helping team members unlock their potential so they can consistently produce exceptional work. 

Leaders play a significant role in maintaining employees’ interest in their work and inspiring them to excel. Their actions and behaviors affect the work environment profoundly; consequently, they have a profound impact on employee motivation, with their actions and behaviors potentially helping it—or hurting it. 

Understanding this dynamic underscores why effective leadership is so crucial to employees and for the organization’s long-term success.

Effective leadership is so important to employees because it keeps them consistently motivated and helps them unlock their potential. Leaders achieve this by setting a vision, emphasizing purpose, and shaping organizational culture in ways that enable their employees to thrive.

In this article, I’ll discuss the importance of motivation and how leaders provide the framework for employees to stay motivated, invested in the vision, united with purpose, and supported by the culture. 

The Pivotal Role of Motivation

One of the toughest parts of maintaining engaged employees who consistently perform at their best is keeping them motivated. A leader’s capacity to inspire employees will dictate the level of employee engagement and retention, their performance, and their job satisfaction.

Leaders must comprehend what truly drives their employees in order to effectively cater to their needs and engage them in their work. Motivation is a key determinant of an employee’s success and plays a vital role in their job satisfaction.

Effective leaders employ strategies that enhance both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, leading to employees who are more committed to their roles and exhibit greater loyalty to their organizations.

Motivational elements play a significant role in engaging employees in their work, fueling their efforts, increasing their commitment, and propelling their performance. These motivational elements are linked to employee needs, and employee motivation is heightened when these needs are fulfilled.

There is a vast array of motivational elements for employees, but they primarily fall into two main categories: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation involves participating in an activity to achieve an external goal, earn recognition or approval, win a competition, or receive a reward or payment. In contrast, intrinsic motivation is characterized by engaging in an activity for its inherent rewards, rather than for a separate outcome.

Most employers already provide factors that enhance extrinsic motivation, such as pay, benefits, and leave time. These can also encompass bonuses and recognition.

However, it’s the intrinsic motivators—often associated with growth, a sense of purpose, and commitment to the vision—that truly inspire employees to engage with their work and do more than just the bare minimum.

Employees who are intrinsically motivated tend to go the extra mile, foster a mindset of improvement, support their colleagues, and utilize their creativity to facilitate innovation within their teams.

Effective Leaders Provide the Vision

Leaders provide direction and set the vision the organization will work toward. 

Leaders provide direction and a lucid vision that binds team members with a sense of purpose and inspires them to work toward the organization’s goals. They encourage individuals to collaborate to achieve shared objectives for the collective good, regardless of their position within the organization.

As mentioned by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a vision assists us in conceptualizing our goals and chasing them: “A vision statement projects into the future and crafts a mental picture of the ideal state that the organization aspires to reach. It is both inspiring and ambitious, and it should challenge employees.”

An organization’s vision, supported by its mission, unites employees around a common goal beyond their everyday tasks.

A vision statement is a vital element of an organization’s strategic planning. However, it should be more than just a slogan on the company’s website. Leaders have a key role in making sure the vision is actively embodied within the organization.

This is why expressing and embodying the vision is a top leadership duty. Leaders articulate a vision and strengthen it among team members by assisting them in discovering meaning in their work through its association with the organization’s wider purpose and recognizing the impact of their work.

Effective Leaders Provide the Purpose

As per McKinsey & Company, over the last three decades, American workers have ranked meaningful work as the most crucial aspect of a job, surpassing income, job security, and working hours.

There’s an inherent human desire to find significance in life, including professional life. Assisting your team members in discerning a broader purpose in their work, discovering value in their daily tasks, and understanding the impact of their work can positively influence motivation.

Work that is meaningful has a purpose and generates an impact. When employees perceive their work as purposeful and impactful, they are dedicated to it with the desire to create a positive impact.

For many individuals, their profession aids them in fulfilling their aspirations to achieve goals and make a difference in the world. A job where one’s work carries purpose and holds a deeper significance beyond routine tasks enhances motivation.

Efficient leaders evaluate performance based on impact. They prioritize impact over quotas or profits as a success metric and aid employees in drawing a connection between their everyday tasks and the overarching mission and vision of the organization.

Helping team members see the purpose and impact of their work can boost motivation. Leaders can celebrate employee successes and highlight their impact. Acknowledging their hard work shows they are valued. 

Effective Leaders Foster a Positive Organizational Culture 

Effective leaders foster a workplace culture in which all their team members can thrive. 

The culture within a workplace can profoundly influence the conduct and performance of its employees. It offers the essential framework for an organization’s mission, vision, values, objectives, and strategies.

Culture aids employees in comprehending not only the “how” of their roles but also the “why,” which is crucial for maintaining high levels of engagement and motivation.

The role of culture in employee motivation is significant due to its influence on the employee experience. Employees are more inclined to maintain their motivation in a positive work culture that appreciates and supports them, facilitates their growth and prosperity, and offers a trusting, psychologically secure environment.

Leadership is instrumental in molding culture, as leaders have the most significant influence on it. They set and elucidate norms that direct employees’ actions, uphold work conditions that favor collaboration and high performance, promote accountability, and assist employees in linking their work to the organization’s vision.

To cultivate a motivating culture, leaders should lead by example, embodying the culture, and reinforcing cultural values positively through their actions, behaviors, and words.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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