How to Identify a Motivated Leader

October 14, 2014

All effective leaders are motivated. They are driven to achieve beyond expectations – their own and everyone else’s. The key word here is achieve.

Plenty of people are motivated by a big salary, an impressive title, or a prestigious company name on their business card. By contrast, those with leadership potential are motivated by a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.

If you are looking for leaders, how can you identify people who are motivated by the drive to achieve rather than by external rewards?

1. Loving their work.

Motivated leaders seek out creative challenges. They relish in learning new things. They take great pride in a job well done. They also strive to do things better. People with such energy often seem restless with the status quo.

2. Exploring new approaches.

A cosmetics company manager, for example, was frustrated that he had to wait two weeks to get sales results from his team. He tracked down an automated phone system that would remind each of his salespeople at 5 pm every day to punch in their numbers to show how many calls and sales they had made. The system shortened the feedback time on sales results from weeks to hours.

3. Raising the bar.

During performance reviews, people with high levels of motivation often ask to be challenged. Of course, an employee who combines self-awareness with internal motivation will recognize her limits, but she won’t settle for objectives that seem too easy to fulfill.

4. Keeping score.

People who are driven to do better also want a way of tracking progress – their own, their team’s, and their company’s. People with low achievement motivation are often fuzzy about results. High achievers keep score by tracking such hard measures as profitability or market share. Interestingly, people with high motivation remain optimistic even when the score is against them. In such cases, self-regulation combines with achievement motivation to overcome the frustration and depression that come after a setback or failure.

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About The Author

Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. As a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, a Times bestseller for a year and a half—with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 40 languages—has also been a bestseller in many countries. He has written books on other topics as well, including self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis.


  1. avatar

    […] You want your company to be led by a motivated leader. Daniel Goleman explains how to determine which people can lead your company to its full potential.  […]

  2. avatar

    Spot on. Many factors may influence motivation but I fully agree that the love of one’s work or task is sure to keep one motivated.

  3. avatar

    Thanks for sharing it, I totally agree. Motivation and passion should be always together at work. Use creativity in new challenges, the desire to continuos improvement , be optimist and to know how to recognise the new opportunities in different situations.
    They are excellent points.

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