How to motivate others and yourself

Here in my house on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, I find it very hard to motivate myself to engage with anything concerning my regular work. All day long, I’m outside. Together with the gardener – and others if needed – we work hard to get all the upkeep done before I return to Brussels. Deadlines have always motivated me. But there’s nothing like the opportunity to create or improve areas of the land or my pond, to get me going. I wish all my tasks were making me feel motivated like this. 

Over the years, I’ve also learned better how to motivate the people who help me do all the heavy lifting. It’s not so evident, and I wish I had known more when I set out, nearly 20 years ago. Here’s a useful nugget below. 


In the 1940s, David McClelland, a Harvard social psychologist, introduced the motivational need theory, shedding light on what drives human behaviour. It revolves around three fundamental motivators: the need for achievement, connection, and power.

McClelland’s found that all of us possess these motivators to varying degrees. One typically emerges as dominant, depending on our culture or life experiences. That means these motivators are learned, and they influence our attitudes, behaviours, and leadership styles.

Individuals driven by achievement thrive on setting and conquering goals. To do so, they’ll take calculated risks. They like to receive continuous feedback on their progress and yet, they tend to prefer working on their own. 

Those motivated by affiliation or connection, prioritize collaboration and harmony within groups, valuing connection and consensus over competition. They may have a desire to be liked and stay away from risk or uncertainty. 

Individuals propelled by power have a strong desire to control and influence others, relishing in competition, status, and recognition. There are actually two kinds of power-driven people: those who want to have personal power over individuals and those who want to have institutional power, the drive to control or organise the efforts of a team to further the company’s or the organization’s goal.

Whether you’re leading a company or a team, serving clients as a solopreneur, or charting your career path, awareness of these driving forces can guide decision-making and foster fulfilment in work.

Have you already identified your principal drive? And can you see how do these insights intersect with our We-Mind and Me-Mind

In my free monthly Leadership Lab we dive into topics like how to motivate others and yourself, and more. If you want to join you can sign up here.

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