leadership, life

How Motivation Can Be Mistaken For Leadership

March 29, 2015

Motivating Leaders

Before every soccer game in high school we’d have the speakers cranked in the stadium and our set list was nothing short of a movie soundtrack. Picture Rocky Balboa running up those steps…

You got it. That was what our playlist was like.

We’d warm up, take a few laps, get pumped up, stretch and put on our game faces. We had practiced and were focused.

Our teams were the best they’d ever been the years I played soccer at my high school. Our graduating class, because of some zoning flexibility, allowed students to register outside normal boundaries if they got in by lottery. We had the best of the best in academics and on the field.

So, when it came time for our bi-weekly games, we were ready. And each player had a role – but I’m not talking about the positions on the field.

There were enforcers, motivators, superstars, and then there were leaders.

Very seldom do I remember leaders and motivators being the same person on our team.

See, motivators were awesome people to be around. They oozed affirmation and edification for specific skill sets + talents and their role was very important to the teams morale when it came to pumping us up before a game and during moments we were tired. They were our active cheerleaders.

The leaders on our team, played a different role. They tended to be less vocal, but their confidence in moments that needed someone to step in and take control was there.

They lead on the field.

And they lead off the field.

They were our solids.

They were the person you sought out when you knew there wasn’t another way out; when you needed firm encouragement. They were the thinkers that saw the 360 view on the field and they knew every players strengths and weaknesses.

They didn’t just know about the player and the position they knew the players. They made clear calls and gave direction when needed. There was a healthy respect for these leaders. It was unspoken…isn’t it crazy how that works?

These leaders worked to make the weak parts of our team, stronger. If parts didn’t work together well or didn’t want to get better, than as a leader, they got better and figured out how to make that weak part want to get better.

Pretty impressive for high schoolers. But they saw the big picture. If each of us was successful, we’re all successful.

The calm in their confidence could be felt in the midst of crisis, a penalty kick, a lost game, a downed player…it didn’t matter. These leaders, were unshakeable.

Now, let’s be honest here. These ladies were 100% human, with weaknesses and strengths just like every other person on that field. The difference about them was who they chose to be in those moments and the role they owned every single day as a piece of that team.

Their consistency, loyalty, and actions made you want to play for them.

True leaders are motivators, but not all motivators are leaders.

The funny thing about these leaders is that most people outside of the team never knew who they were. They were the quiet ones sitting in reflection on the rowdy bus ride home.

They weren’t the star on the field.

They weren’t looking for ways to highlight their talents and efforts.

It was about the strength of the team.

They motivated the motivators.

Motivation is easily mistaken for leadership when we start to think all that leadership is about, is motivating people.

With motivational speakers on the rise, there is a sense of “feel good” that we instantly connect with. Those people are truly great at what they do and most of the things they say are amazing prompts to ‘keep going’ and ‘stick with it!’

I don’t know about you…but for me, I needed more than that in the tough moments. Something of substance that when the going got really tough. That’s when I would look to the leader for our next move.

Not all motivational people are truly great leaders. It doesn’t discount the motivation, but when we lump leadership into being a great cheerleader it discounts the role of leadership. Much like it would discount the role of what being a motivator is.

I believe there are so many other pieces to leading greatly. And that’s why we didn’t have 14 leaders on our team.

We had just two.

At the end of the day, motivation does not necessarily equal leadership. But, if you truly lead from a place of health, heart, and humility…motivation won’t be following too far behind.

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