Fecha de expiración de evaluación final: 14/02/1970

3.3 Motivation and Leadership

We could define motivation as the ability to incite subordinates to action, in such a way that they work to achieve the objectives of the organization.

The motivation is directly related to the emotions of the individual and, normally, reflects the outline of values, needs and beliefs of the person. Meanwhile, leadership would be the ability of managers to get subordinates to follow the guidelines set by the manager (or leader) without recourse to coercive actions. It implies, therefore, a positive sense since it is the followers who decide to engage in an active and constructive way with the behaviors and actions initiated by the leader.


In recent decades there have been several theories that have tried to explain what are the factors that explain motivation. These theories are interesting insofar as they provide us with logical schemes to understand the factors that underlie or explain motivation. Some of these factors can be operationalized, that is, modified or altered, either directly or indirectly, in such a way that the manager can use them to increase the level of motivation of his group and, therefore, for this get the objectives set by the organization.

Other factors depend almost absolutely on the environment or on the stable personality traits of the individuals, so that they can hardly be “manipulated” by the manager. However, in these cases it is convenient to know them since it is possible to identify them and understand how they work, which can give certain advantages when it comes to creating future motivation strategies or not falling into states of demotivation. Next, we review the main theories that explain motivation.

I.I. Theory of incentives

It is perhaps the oldest and most obvious theory. Confirm that individuals move (do not forget that motivation has its origin in the Latin word motivus or movement) because they expect to get an incentive derived from their action.

The managers should, therefore, define the incentives, rewards or positive reinforcements capable of provoking an action of the individual in the direction of achieving the objectives.

I.II.Theory of Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Formulated by the North American psychologist Abraham Maslow, it emphasizes that human beings have needs that define behavior and this is determined only by the existence of unmet needs. Satisfied needs do not induce behavior, so they are not valuable from the point of view of the manager. This theory also affirms that there are more important needs than others and, therefore, all human needs can be organized in a hierarchy in such a way that the individual always tries to satisfy the needs that are in the step immediately superior to those already he has satisfied.

According to this hierarchy of needs, the most basic are the physiological needs, directly related to physical survival (hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.). In the second step of the pyramid, the security and health needs are concentrated. These needs include shelter, a place to live, the need to flee from illness or to ensure health, or the maintenance of physical integrity against external attacks. The third step includes social needs or belonging to a group of people (friendship, feeling part of a group, feeling supported by colleagues or activity colleagues). The fourth step integrates the needs of self-esteem, recognition and achievement.

The last step of the pyramid is formed by the needs of self-realization. In this case, the individual seeks through his behavior to reach a state of intrinsic satisfaction, of almost happiness because he does what he really likes or satisfies him, regardless of whether his social or work environment stimulates him. In this last step, the individual must have satisfied the rest of the needs included in the lower echelons and supposes the highest stage of evolution reached by people who show a high individualism, humanism and a high level of psychological well-being. From the point of view of the administration of human resources, this theory facilitates an intuitive and simple explanation of the preponderance of human needs and their relationship with the way in which individuals act.

Managers should be able to recognize which phase of the pyramid their subordinates are in and try to get the individual to climb positions in the pyramid while working to achieve the objectives of the organization. To join the organizational objectives with the individual needs would be the basic teaching of this conceptual framework within the administration of companies.

Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, talks with Stephanie Ruhle about the quest for innovation at Google and the application of workplace data to motivate employees and create a better environment for workers and customers.

Let´s watch this interview and answer a few questions in it:

I.III. Bifactor theory of Herzberg

Formulated by the American psychologist Frederick Herzberg, who states that there are two major groups of factors related to motivation: motivational and hygienic. Motivational factors are related to the satisfaction of facing challenges at work, the recognition that is derived from a job well done or the responsibility that is acquired when ascending in the hierarchical scale. These factors (motivational) encourage action and favor the emergence of positive behavior among workers. The presence of hygienic factors, however, does not produce motivation, but its absence does demotivate. Among these factors are those that define the safety of the workers, the physical conditions of work, the supervision and control regime, the status and the money (salary) that the employee receives.

As a summary we could indicate that as workers are better trained, they tend to look for jobs in which it is possible to satisfy the needs of individual esteem that, in turn, facilitate recognition and personal enrichment.

In these cases, the feeling of achievement and satisfaction for work well done after facing challenging and complex tasks is the greatest source of motivation. The above cannot be fulfilled if, at the same time, the management has not controlled the factors that may be threatening to the physical or occupational integrity of the individual, the existence of threats, fear, conflict or confusion.

II. Leadership

There are two main questions that need to be answered in relation to leadership. The first seeks to know what are the conditions that bring together good leaders. The second is interested in the style of leadership that is best used at any time.

Regarding the first question, many studies have been carried out to define the characteristics of the leader, and there is a certain consensus that good leaders are usually people who have the characteristics of intelligence, adaptability, extraversion, flexibility, acceptance of change and high self-efficacy (they trust that they have the necessary conditions to carry out the work they are prepared to carry out). There is still a greater degree of agreement in establishing what are the characteristics of the non-leader; These people are usually focused on satisfying their personal interests to the detriment of the group, they tend to be inflexible and rigid in their opinions and decisions, they are more concerned about their personal status than the interest of the organization and may have low self-esteem that, sometimes, it is full of authoritarianism and arbitrariness.

The second question, the best leadership style that can be applied in each case, has also been the object of a profuse analysis. Perhaps one of the most used tools to explain the different types of leadership and its application is the leadership matrix, developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton.

The x-axis: represents those managers who understand that the main thing is to achieve the tasks and achieve the objectives without paying much attention to the social environment or the nature of relations between and with subordinates.

The y-axis: the manager tends to feel more interested in the existing relationships with his subordinates, as well as those that arise within the working group itself.

By doing a joint analysis, four major styles of leadership could be identified. The style of impoverished leadership is typical of leaders who show no interest in the achievement of tasks or personal relationships.

Task-oriented styles are most effective when the work environment is very favorable or very unfavorable. The work environment is favorable when the leader-follower relationships are good, the tasks and procedures are clearly defined and well-structured and the leader’s authority / power position is not questioned (in other words, when his position of power is strong). In intermediate cases, that is, when some of these conditions are not positive or they are positive, but not clearly (intermediate favorability), it would be better to use leadership centered on relationships. We could conclude that there are no good or bad styles of leadership, but there are situations in which it is better to use a determined leadership style depending on the conditioning factors of the environment, the characteristics of the subordinates and the nature of the leader.