“The leader’s style pulls ... (and) a pull style of influence works by attracting and energizing people to an exciting vision of the future. It motivates by identification, rather than through rewards and punishments.”
- Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus 

Leadership that pulls people with a powerful vision is more likely to build deep and last commitments than any system of rewards and punishments. 

That’s something for every leader to keep in mind. But it can be especially crucial in the non-profit world where financial rewards can be few and far between. In such situations, leadership that motivates by identification is often the only practical option. Of course, that requires a vision. But a vision by itself is not enough.

To achieve identification, leaders have to “empower” their staffs to pursue the vision. That word is overused, but the concept is essential to effective organizational performance — especially in the complex, highly-volatile and uncertain environments most of us find ourselves immersed in these day. 

In their book Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge(regrettably now out of print, but available in good used condition for under $4) Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus outline the four factors that lead to empowerment. 

  • Significance: provide a vision that shows people the importance of their individual contributions to your organization and to the larger world. 
  • Competence: make sure your people keep learning and developing their skills. You may lose them, but that’s better than keeping them without competence. 
  • Community: they don’t have to like each other, but they do have to have a sense of how they rely on one another to achieve a common purpose. 
  • Enjoyment: find ways to make it and keep it fun no matter what the circumstances.

Leaders who address these dimensions of empowerment will be blessed with loyal, competent and purposeful teams.

Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute

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