Characteristics of a Leader: 3 Pillars of Team Motivation | Bill Munn





Characteristics of a Leader: The 3 Pillars of Team Motivation

Characteristics of a Leader: The 3 Pillars of Team Motivation

“What are the characteristics of a leader?” I get this type of question a lot. My answer points to the 3 pillars of team motivation—3 key areas where great leaders spur engagement, which is the core of leadership.

Let’s just role up our sleeves and name these leadership topics right off the bat:

3 Pillars of Team MotivationHeadphone image links to audio post of Characteristics of a Leader: 3 Pillars of Motivation

  • Vision
  • Autonomy
  • Growth

Today, I’m looking at each of these characteristics of a leader in a bit of detail. Specifically:

What, exactly, does vision look like within your organization or team?

How can you promote autonomy by better understanding, recognizing, and avoiding its deeply detested opposite?

What do I mean by “growth,” and how does it support team motivation?

Characteristics of a Leader: Innate or Learned?

Some would-be leaders become discouraged before they even begin leading anyone, because they convince themselves they don’t have “it.” As if there’s a single, innate attribute that will guarantee your success as a leader.

This simply isn’t true. In fact, great leaders come in many power-alley attribute varieties.

But today, we’re examining 3 pillars of motivation that represent something you can learn and use, whatever your attribute profile.

Because effective team motivation is a skill – not an inherent trait. So by focusing on these pillars of motivation, leaders new, old, and aspiring can immediately boost the performance and longevity of their most valuable resource: people.

Listen In: The 3 Pillars of Team Motivation



I get asked often by clients about leadership,  and, “What are the core things that you need? I know I need to do lots of different things as a leader, but what are the core, primary, important characteristics of a leader that I should focus on in leadership?” 

We like simple, short lists. I see lists of these 10 things you need to do, these 100 things, these 6 things, these 9 things…

I think it’s a mindset around what I have found to be 3 primary motivators – 3 pillars of leadership that are key to motivating people and thereby achieving your goals and the goals of our organization.

There 3 pillars are

  • Vision,
  • Autonomy, &
  • Growth.

People want those 3 at the top of their list.

They want lots of other things, depending on their attribute profile, they are looking for being managed in different ways.  Those are the subtleties of a really fine leader – some of the most advanced characteristics of a leader.

But at its core, you can find at the top of the list, in the vast majority of people, that you will trigger engagement from people – which is the core of leadership – engagement from people when you they experience vision, autonomy, and growth.

And I’ll speak to each of these briefly today.

1st Pillar of Motivation: Vision

The first of the pillars of motivation is vision. Vision is the word I am using to describe: people want to be a part of something important.  

They want what they’re doing to matter – what the company is doing, what the organization is doing, makes a difference.  

And, you don’t have to think of yourself as “Gee, we’re saving children or animals in Africa,” “We’re going to the moon.” Think through your core values as an organization, and communicate to your people the importance of the service or the product that you’re delivering to people.

Whether it’s – it doesn’t have to be a business – it could be in education, it could a hospital, it could be a profit, a non-profit…those are all details. But think through, Why is this important? What is key to us being here at all and doing what we’re doing? And communicate that with the team.

2nd Pillar of Motivation: Autonomy

The second major item I point out in the pillars of motivation is autonomy. 

Autonomy is really the positive word – because I like positive words in vision – for avoiding a major negative that almost everyone brings up when it exists: people hate to be micromanaged.

When people are given an assignment and not allowed to proceed on their own basis and with their own intellect and with their own creativity and through their own pathways – and they’re constantly monitored and “ridden” (as they would say, as in riding a horse), “ridden” by their manager or their leader – they feel untrusted. They feel that the manager thinks they’re incompetent to handle the task.

And worse, if the manager even goes on and does what I call “jump ball delegation,” which gives the assignment to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 people, they keep running into other people who have gotten the same assignment. And that’s a common disease in a lot of organizations.  It kills team motivation.

People want to be given an assignment, able to ask questions, get clarity around the assignment, and then go charge into it on their own – even making some mistakes and falling down.

And they owe the manager lots of things in terms of updates, etc. And that should all be talked about and communicated. But don’t just hover over their shoulder like a helicopter parent.

3rd Pillar of Motivation: Growth

And finally, growth.

Growth is the word I’m using to describe the truth that people want to be developed. People want to feel – throughout time, throughout their life, throughout their career – they are getting better. They’re getting better at what they do.

That’s on their job. That’s in their personal life. But what the manager can deal with is in the job.  

People want to receive input. They want to go to seminars. They want to go to training programs. They want to have access to help, to coaching, and development of their expertise in their area – whether that be in management or whether it be in a technical area, whether it be a work alone area or a work in teams area.

Managers tend to go to people and give them, “You should be doing this better, you should be doing that better, you should be doing this better, you need  to improve this, you need to improve that.”

But when people don’t see any assistance, any help, any investment in them coming from the organization, you are losing a major 1 of the top 3 motivators, and letting it sit idle. Don’t miss this opportunity for team motivation.

Where This Team Motivation Leads

So, in leadership, if you pay attention to

  • Vision: you feel a part of something important;
  • Autonomy: don’t micromanage; and
  • Growth: make sure that your people have access to development; 

You’re going to be making huge strides to motivate your team and achieve engagement with them.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Have you seen the effect of these characteristics of a leader in action?

If so, what are your thoughts on the importance of the pillars of motivation? How are leaders in your organization doing it right? How are they messing it up? Have you had your own successes or fumbles as a leader that others could learn from?

Please share your thoughts and comments below, or reach out to tell me your story.

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