Leadership roles

Executive Summary

In this article, we discuss the application of two motivational models that provides a practical tool for managers and also individuals wishing to assume leadership roles. Leaders, in this article, are considered to be managers and who have the opportunity and responsibility to motivate others in the field of career. Motivating high levels of employee performance is an important organizational consideration. Both academic researchers and practicing managers have been trying to understand and explain employee motivation for years.

The report provides a brief discussion of two motivational theories that are widely used globally. These models are namely1) Hierarchy ofNeeds Theory (Maslow, 1943) a motivational theory in psychology that argues that while people aim to meet basic needs, they seek to meet successively higher needs in the form of a hierarchy and 2) Expectancy Theory (Vroom, 1964; Porter and Lawler, 1968) which suggests that individuals, acting through self-interest, adopt courses of action perceived as maximizing the probability of desirable outcomes for themselves. This desire to maximize self-interest providesaspiringleaders with unique opportunities to assume leadership roles by simultaneously meeting both follower needs and organizational requirements.

Effective managers who want their employees to put forth maximum effort recognize that they need to know how and why employees are motivated and to tailor their motivational practices to satisfy the needs and wants of those employees. Companies that consciously enact strategies to create a culture of employee motivation are the companies that attract and retain the best talent and surpass their corporate goals. The report concludes on realizing the value of employees to organisations and how employee motivation helps organisations achieve their goals.


Motivating and rewarding employees are one of the most important and one of the most challenging activities that managers perform. Motivation is defined as "The set of processes that arouse, direct, and maintain human behavior towards attaining some goal". (Greenberg &Baron, 2003, p190) The job of a manager in the workplace is to get things done through employees. To do this the manager should be able to motivate employees. But that's easier said than done! Motivation practice and theory are difficult subjects, touching on several disciplines. Apart from the benefit and moral value of an altruistic approach to treating colleagues as human beings and respecting human dignity in all its forms, research and observations show that well motivated employees are more productive and creative. The inverse also holds true.

Successful companies need motivated employees. It is important for the company well being that they find ways of fostering and sustaining intrinsic motivation. But motivating people is normally easier said than done. Employees cannot be programmed to embrace the company objectives very easily. At the moment, many employers are focusing to motivate the employees by means of monetary incentives. However, these extrinsic motivations are not always enough to keep employees motivated, and intrinsic motivation is very important for many reasons for a company. Extrinsic motivation satisfies indirect needs, which are unrelated to the task they are performing. Intrinsic motivation on the other hand satisfies direct needs, which aspire the people to perform a particular task.

In spite of enormous research, basic as well as applied, the subject of motivation is not clearly understood. To understand motivation one must understand human nature itself. Human nature can be very simple, yet very complex too. An understanding and appreciation of this is a prerequisite to effective employee motivation in the workplace and therefore effective management and leadership. It is very important for management to have knowledge about the ways the employees are motivated; by monetary incentives or by internal factors like recognition and challenge at work. The employee's are the company's greatest assets and no matter how efficient is the company's technology or machinery, the effectiveness and efficiency of a company staff cannot be replaced.

Motivational Theories

Two theories of motivation discussed in this report are Maslow'sHierarchy ofNeeds theory and Vroom's Expectancy theory.

Maslow'sHierarchy ofNeeds

Abraham Maslow (1943) put forward the 'hierarchy of needs theory' which saw human needs in the form of a hierarchy, ascending from lowest to the highest. He argued that lower level needs had to be satisfied before the next higher level need and as each needs are substantially satisfied, the next need becomes dominant. (E.g. esteem needs become dominant after social needs are satisfied). Also, when a need gets substantially satisfied, it stops to be motivating.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has often been represented in a hierarchical pyramid with five levels. The four levels (lower-order needs) are consideredphysiological needs,while the top level is consideredgrowth needs. The lower level needs need to be satisfied before higher-order needs can influence behavior. The levels are as follows (see pyramid in Figure 1 below).

  • Self-actualization- morality, creativity, problem solving, etc.
  • Esteem- includes confidence, self-esteem, achievement, respect, etc.
  • Belongingness- includes love, friendship, intimacy, family, etc.
  • Safety- includes security of environment, employment, resources, health, property, etc.
  • Physiological- includes air, food, water, sex, sleep, other factors towards homeostasis, etc.

The crux of Maslow's theory is to focus on finding out the level of hierarchy the person is in and focusing on satisfying his/her needs and the needs above it. Therefore, in order to motivate someone, according to Maslow, managers need to understand what level that person is on in the hierarchy and focus on satisfying needs at or above that level.They should strive to focus on the key needs for each employee and emphasize what the company offers that addresses those needs. Managers should also realize that employees have different personal needs and goals that they are hoping to satisfy through their job. For example, what motivates a single mother with two dependent children who is working full time to support her family may be very different from the needs of a single part-time employee or an older employee who is working only to supplement his or her retirement income. A diverse array of rewards is needed to motivate employees with such varied needs.

Vroom's Expectancy theory

Expectancy theory (Vroom, 1964; Porter and Lawler, 1968), suggests that individuals, acting through self-interest, adopt courses of action perceived as maximizing the probability of desirable outcomes for themselves. This desire to maximize self-interest provides aspiring leaders with unique opportunities to assume leadership roles by simultaneously meeting both follower needs and organizational requirements.

Expectancy theory is classified as a process theory of motivation (Fudge and Schlacter, 1999) because it emphasizes individual perceptions of the environment and subsequent interactions arising as a consequence of personal expectations. By contrast, content theories constitute the other major classification of motivation theories and they focus upon internal attributes of the person.

Expectancy theory mainly relies upon extrinsic motivators to explain causes for behaviours exhibited in the workplace (Leonard et al., 1999). External rewards are viewed as inducing motivational states that fuel behaviours, as opposed to intrinsic motivators, where behaviours are derived as a consequence of internal forces such as enjoyment of the work itself. The distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivational sources was originally suggested by deCharms (1968). Shamir (1990) states that motivational theories based upon the concept of extrinsic motivation assume that followers make conscious choices to maximize self-interests.

This fact permits us to suggest that expectancy theory offers a vehicle for individuals to realize their leadership goals, because it equips them with tools to influence the psychological processes resident in their followers, as the latter continuously create expectations resulting from perceptions of their environments. By following a checklist of issues to address, arising from the theory itself, and by bestowing rewards in an appropriate fashion, the leader is enabled to adopt a pulling or influence strategy that enhances levels of personal motivation of followers wishing to maximize their self-interests.

The model suggests that the individual feels motivated when three conditions are perceived.
  1. The personal expenditure of effort will result in an acceptable level of performance.
  2. The performance level achieved will result in a specific outcome for the person.
  3. The outcome attained is personally valued.

The key elements to this theory are referred to as Expectancy (E), Instrumentality (I), and Valence (V).

Expectancyrefers to the strength of a person's belief about whether or not a particular job performance is attainable. Assuming all other things are equal, an employee will be motivated to try a task, if he or she believes that it can be done. This expectancy of performance may be thought of in terms of probabilities ranging from zero (a case of "I can't do it!") to 1.0 ("I have no doubt whatsoever that I can do this job!")

A number of factors can contribute to an employee's expectancy perceptions:

  • the level of confidence in the skills required for the task
  • the amount of support that may be expected from superiors and subordinates
  • the quality of the materials and equipment
  • the availability of pertinent information

Previous success at the task has also been shown to strengthen expectancy beliefs. This relationship between effort and performance is known as the E-P linkage.

Instrumentality constitutes a perception that performance levels are related to rewards bestowed (Fudge and Schlacter, 1999) and is symbolized as the P-O linkage. If an employee believes that a high level of performance will be instrumental for the acquisition of outcomes which may be gratifying, then the employee will place a high value on performing well. Vroom defines Instrumentality as a probability belief linking one outcome (a high level of performance, for example) to another outcome (a reward). Instrumentality may range from a probability of 1.0 (meaning that the attainment of the second outcome the reward is certain if the first outcome excellent job performance is attained) through zero (meaning there is no likely relationship between the first outcome and the second). An example of zero instrumentality would be exam grades that were distributed randomly (as opposed to be awarded on the basis of excellent exam performance). Commission pay schemes are designed to make employees perceive that performance is positively instrumental for the acquisition of money.

For management to ensure high levels of performance, it must tie desired outcomes (positive valence) to high performance, and ensure that the connection is communicated to employees. The VIE theory holds that people have preferences among various outcomes. These preferences tend to reflect a person's underlying need state.

Valence (V) refers to the extent to which the person values the reward he or she receives (Fudge and Schlacter, 1999; Van Erde and Thierry, 1996). An outcome is positively valent if an employee would prefer having it to not having it. An outcome that the employee would rather avoid (fatigue, stress, noise, layoffs) is negatively valent. Outcomes towards which the employee appears indifferent are said to have zero valence. Valences refer to the level of satisfaction people expect to get from the outcome (as opposed to the actual satisfaction they get once they have attained the reward).

There will be no motivational forces acting on an employee if any of these three conditions hold:

  • the person does not believe that he/she can successfully perform the required task
  • the person believes that successful task performance will not be associated with positively valent outcomes
  • the person believes that outcomes associated with successful task completion will be negatively valent (have no value for that person)

Vroom suggests that an employee's beliefs about Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence interact psychologically to create a motivational force such that the employee acts in ways that bring pleasure and avoid pain. The motivational force of an individual performing a particular task is illustrated by using the following formula:

Motivation = Valance Expectancy Instrumentality

This formula can be used to indicate and predict such things as job satisfaction, one's occupational choice, the likelihood of staying in a job, and the effort one might expend at work.

Vroom's theory can apply to any situation where someone does something because they expect a certain outcome. The theory is about the associations people make towards expected outcomes and the contribution they feel they can make towards those outcomes (Bowen,1991) Critics have applauded the basics of Vroom's theory but questions have been raised about the validity over the motivation equation as a product of expectancy, instrumentality and valence.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Motivation remains a challenge for organizations today. With the changing environment, the solutions to motivation problems are becoming even more complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that what motivates employees changes constantly (Bowen & Radhakrishna, 2001) We all know that a piece of string travels purposefully when pulled and not pushed, as noted by Miller (1996) in a discussion on empowerment of employees, and we support this principle as it applies to leadership and the use of influence. The effective application of influence instills a sense of purpose or mission amongst the workers. The source of this influence stems from the leader and not the organization. The leader emphasizes doing things with people, rather than to them (Blanchard, 1999), and places extreme importance on entering into a relationship with those who follow (Kouzes and Posner, 1993).

Managers need to understand what motivates employees within the context of the roles they perform and understand the process, theories, and fundamental components of motivation. Regardless of which theory is followed, interesting work and employee pay are important links to higher motivation. Options such as job enlargement, job enrichment, promotions, monetary and non-monetary compensation should be considered. Research done by (Higgins, 2004) has come out with ten most motivating factors which are: interesting work, good wages, full appreciation of work done, job security, good working conditions, promotions and growth in the organization, feeling of being in on things, personal loyalty to employees, tactful discipline, and sympathetic help with personal problems. The key to motivating employees is to know what motivates them and designing a motivation program based on those needs.


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