Heart Leadership: Fourth Question Leaders Lead From the Heart.

The word ‘motivation’ in the discourse of leadership does not really express what is intended by the Fourth Question. The core principle of Fourth Question Leadership is – it is only when the motivations behind your leadership decisions are selfless, completely other focused, that care is enacted towards those you lead. Fourth Question Leadership is heart leadership. The Fourth Question is “What is your motivation?” In the context of Fourth Question Leadership the intent is for ‘motivation’ to involve an examination of the heart of the leader – to examine the intrinsic drivers of decisions as opposed to any extrinsic drivers – it is heart leadership. I think that motivation is a vastly overrated concept and heart leadership is superior in every way. It is what is in your heart that matters. (Look in the FAQ section , and the Four Question section, for more information about the Four Questions of leadership)

Heart Leadership Not Motivational Leadership

Motivation vs Heart. The leadership tTghtrope. © Toma Bonciu | Dreamstime.com

Motivation vs Heart. The leadership tTghtrope. © Toma Bonciu | Dreamstime.com

Simply defined, motivation is what drives a person’s behaviour. It might be conceptualised as what lies behind the choices people make. It has become synonymous with people’s efforts to lose weight, get fit, do their best at their job, or just to get out of bed in the morning. It is the force which drives behaviour towards the achievement of a goal. Motivation based leadership tends to distil leadership effectiveness to a process of manipulating people’s behaviour while heart leadership seeks to connect people to purpose, even if that purpose is better fulfilled in a different organisation.

Maslow developed a hierarchy of human needs which he theorised sat behind all human behaviour. He categorised them into levels of need, theorising that people needed to have the lower needs met in order to be motivated to fill the higher level needs. Maslow’s hierarchy included (in ascending order of needs) physiological, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self actualisation.

As a leadership lens motivation is something leaders either do to, or for people, or release within people in some way.

© Yuryz | Dreamstime.com

© Yuryz | Dreamstime.com

If Maslow’s theory is to be accepted without challenge human motivation is, at its very core, about meeting one’s own needs and has little or nothing to do with meeting the needs of others. Thus, it is at odds with Fourth Question Leadership. Rather than seeing the leader as a mechanism of empowering people through something the leader does ‘to’ or ‘for’ others, heart leadership is leadership which journeys alongside people as they explore their own sense of identity, belonging, efficacy, and helping them to reveal purpose within themselves.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. (Steve Jobs)

Motivation is about identifying a need within one’s self and choosing behaviours to fulfil the identified need. Fourth Question Leadership, heart leadership, is about actively seeking to identify the needs of others and choosing behaviours to fulfil those needs. This may actually occur at some personal cost to the leader.

Much of what is written about how leaders motivate their team members draws on the fundamentals of the carrot and stick approach. At its worst this is expressed in processes of positive and negative reinforcements whereby desirable behaviour is rewarded and less desirable behaviour is not rewarded, or even punished in some way. While evidence would suggest this approach might achieve some results, it is still working on the human propensity towards selfishness. Heart leadership, on the other hand, encourages selflessness.

© Yuryz | Dreamstime.com

© Yuryz | Dreamstime.com

Other theories of motivation, including Herzberg’s Two-Factor Approach and McClelland’s need for power theory, deliberately strategise for leaders to manipulate the ego and success motivations of those they lead. They not only recognise the innate tendency for selfishness in people, they encourage leaders to manipulate these drives to their own advantage. This seems to me to be the antithesis of heart leadership.

McGregor’s Theory-X and Theory-Y comes the closest to my idea of a positive theory on human motivation and heart leadership when it argues that, under the right circumstances, team members will contribute their skills and experise to the benefit of the organisation. The role of the leader, according to McGregor, is to align the needs of employees to the needs of the organisation and give them choice in how they met those needs as opposed to manipulating them.

Motivation, regardless of which theory a leader subscribes to, is just plain hard work!

Let’s look at an alternative view – the Fourth Question view.

Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye. (H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)

Fourth Question Leadership argues the most important question any leader can ask is “What is my motivation?” The purpose of asking the question is to focus leadership decisions and behaviours on meeting the needs of others. The question is not a pathway to manipulation. It is, rather, a window to the heart, heart leadership.

“Heart” has become associated with love, compassion and selflessness. When leadership is heart leadership it connects with something outside of ourselves – with something higher. It requires an act of will, a choice, for a leader to make decisions and behave from the heart – but heart authentically outlasts human will. It is stronger than our will.

Fourth Question Leadership, heart leadership, leadership which seeks to put the needs of others first, does not use manipulation as a motivation strategy. It seeks to give people agency. To assist them to search their hearts, to discover purpose, to answer the question of “why” for themselves.

Heart leadership is Fourth Question Leadership.

 

Takeaways

  • The core principle of Fourth Question Leadership is – it is only when the motivations behind your leadership decisions are selfless, completely other focused, that care is enacted towards those you lead.
  • Motivation is a vastly overrated concept and heart leadership is superior in every way.
  • Simply defined, motivation is what drives a person’s behaviour.
  • Motivation based leadership tends to distil leadership effectiveness to a process of manipulating people’s behaviour while heart leadership seeks to connect people to purpose.
  •  A motivation approach to leadership manipulates the human propensity towards selfishness. Heart leadership, on the other hand, encourages selflessness.
  • When leadership is heart leadership it connects with something outside of ourselves.

Additional Resources

Difference Between Heart and Mind

7 Scientific Reasons You Should Listen To Your Heart (Not Your Brain)

7 Keys to Leading With Your Heart

Motivation is Overrated and Relying on It is a Bad Thing

Moral Motivation

Achieving Peak Motivation

Motivation is the Heart of HRM

6 Types of Motivation Explained

5 Leadership Lessons: The Heart of Leadership

7 Keys to Leading With Your Heart