Leadership – one of the great enigmas in the modern world. There’s very little that we don’t know about Leadership – it’s just gaining agreement. If you Google ‘leadership’ you will see hundreds of definitions; as well as many ‘Top ten attributes…’,’The definitive list of leadership behaviours…’, ‘The Top 5 things all leaders must have….’, etc., etc. The majority of these contain the same core values, attributes and behaviours – but each one claiming that theirs is the ‘best’ or definitive description.
One aspect that the vast majority of academics and experts will agree on is that a leader should be a good communicator. They should also be able to motivate others as well as ‘…influence others in a desired direction’, as identified by Professor John Adair, renowned author and leadership expert.
Most leadership theories and models, can be traced back to early or mid 20th Century research by the classical behavioural, sociology and leadership theorists. Their original concept is usually given a modern twist or adapted using current business terminology, and then sold as ‘the’ new idea. In light of this, my take on applying good leadership communication, I often use an area of motivational research from the 1970’s. Not within the classical movement granted, but an area which has often been overlooked.
Hackman and Oldham derived their ‘Job Characteristics’ model in the 1970’s which they highlighted that the task itself is key to employee motivation. That is, a boring and monotonous job will stifle motivation and the ability to perform well; whereas, a challenging job, in theory, will enhance motivation. (As these findings have been around for 40 years’ or so, then this doesn’t surprise us now, as this forms the basis of the concept of empowerment and job enrichment).
In their research they identified two main components: 5 core job characteristics; and 3 critical psychological states. It’s the 3 psychological states that I focus on as a basis to create effective leadership communication.
The three psychological states are:
- Experienced Meaningfulness – [EM]: the value of the work being done by the individual. This can be monetary, career advancement, personal achievement, etc.
- Experienced Responsibility – [ER]: the ‘ownership’ or personal obligation to the completion of the work being undertaken.
- Knowledge Results/Feedback – [KR]: the perception that they will they receive feedback on their progress or effort.
Or put more simply:
- ‘What’s in it for me?’ (EM)
- ‘Who is responsible?’ (ER)
- ‘Is anyone going to check what I do?’ (KR)
When you ask someone to do something – these three statements will either be aired vocally, or more than often they will certainly be thinking it!
By integrating them into your message you will help satisfy the three questions surrounding EM, ER and KR, and their motivational need.
“…..and by undertaking this you will gain greater knowledge in the process, so helping your career progression (EM).
I’m asking you to complete this as I believe you have the potential to create a really quality job (ER).
We can check your progress at stages to ensure you’re on track (KR).”
They can now hear that:
- There’s something to gain (EM): so will be more willing to invest their own personal time and effort. They can see that they will be achieving something; achievement provides the basis for one of the most powerful motivators.
- It’s down to them (ER): being responsible for something provides the driving force to get things done. This is because of personal integrity, obligation or a feeling of not wanting to let others or themselves down. This can also imply autonomy, or empowerment – having the freedom to make the decisions needed to get the job done.
- They’ll be monitored/get feedback on their progress (KR): people crave feedback, and knowing that they will be monitored and given this will make help them want to perform better, or get the input to improve as needed.
So, the main point to gain from this is that when you are asking someone to do something, giving a task out to someone, need to lead others to achieve a goal – then consider these three areas.
Leadership is about being an effective communicator, influencer and motivator – this is one possible format that can help you achieve this by understanding the motivation of why people do things, and being able to satisfy that need through your communication.
 Hackman, J. R. & Oldham, G. R. (1975). Development of job diagnostic survey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 159-170.