Whether in sales or in any other part of growing a business, one essential leadership trait you will need is the ability to motivate others.
Motivation is described as “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way”, or as “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”. From a leadership perspective, the definition of the word is actually both of these…you need the first (the “why” of motivation) to get to the second (the “what” of motivation). It is important to note: No one can motivate another to action. Facts and perspectives can be provided, but the motivation to act must originate from within.
Understood this way, it’s clear that successfully motivating others is challenging to accomplish, especially in the context of leading others. How can you help people find compelling reasons (intellectually and emotionally) to act, and then actually ensure that they have the ability and willingness to follow through?
Jesus was a master of motivation, and examining his techniques and choices can be instructive as you seek to develop your own leadership style and successfully motivate others. Here are four things Jesus did to achieve success as a master motivator:
1. He chose carefully.
The first step to success when motivating others is…not always trying to motivate others. Jesus didn’t try to motivate everyone he encountered. He didn’t hesitate to engage everyone he came across, and provide clear options and new perspectives for people to consider, but in some cases (the Pharisees, the rich man, and other skeptics and political forces), he knew that they were not ready to change at the time he encountered them.
Remember, Jesus didn’t make everyone a disciple. He wanted everyone to be a follower, but even that was not his expectation. Rather, he carefully chose twelve men who were ready to hear his message, respond to his call, and engage in action that would lead to their apostolic callings being fulfilled.
2. He engaged personally.
Jesus didn’t deliver ‘soap-box speeches’. He didn’t ‘speak to the PowerPoint slides’. And he certainly didn’t blanket the marketplace with mailers. Of course, Jesus didn’t have access to computer software or direct mail, but even if he had, it seems pretty likely that he would not have used them. To Jesus, mentorship and motivation is a one-on-one activity.
Each person Jesus encountered received a message tailored to them, which meant that he keyed into the personal challenges, hopes, dreams, and opportunities (the motivators) unique to each individual. This was certainly true with his disciples, considering that he approached each on the basis of his specific personality traits and personal experiences.
3. He challenged deeply.
So much of modern business communication and ‘motivational speaking’ boils down to generic exhortations and superficial promises of future success. It’s gotten so bad that there are comic strips (Dilbert) and vendors (Demotivates) who specialize in mocking the silliness of the generic ‘success thinking’ platitudes that dominate so much of our ‘motivational’ discourse.
Of course, this silliness has nothing in common with the approach Jesus took. He didn’t mount posters with pictures of ocean waves and exhort his followers to ‘surf the wave of success’. Instead, Jesus took his disciples out on a real body of water, one with a long history of violent and stormy weather, and actually commanded them to overcome their fears by walking on the water. Peter was so deathly afraid of taking the risk that he initially refused, then eventually followed Jesus and experienced the achievement of overcoming his fears in the most visceral and personal way possible.
4. He supported sacrificially.
Finally, Jesus recognized the essential place of sacrifice as a core component of leadership, in both a profoundly divine and also a completely human way. Motivation, like all traits of true leadership, begins by example. You can’t motivate others effectively by telling them to do one thing while you do another, especially if your goal is to motivate them to take risks or accept sacrifices.
Of course, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice – giving up his life so that others might live (in body, soul, and spirit). But even prior to this point, Jesus made innumerable sacrifices of his time, his energy, and his spirit in order to serve others. This servant heart and total dedication were at the core of his success as one who helps others discover what motivates them to believe and to act.
These four traits are essential to successful leadership, and as you pursue your journey of guiding and motivating others, looking toward the example of Jesus will give you a clear picture of the strategies, priorities, and personal traits you will adapt in the pursuit of servant leadership success.