Cruise Control: How to stay motivated about your own growth as a leader | Brighten Project Leadership Development

Cruise Control

thought leadership Jun 25, 2023


Cruise Control: How to fuel your motivation engine and keep your growth journey on track


โ›ฝ๏ธ The [Empty to Full] of Motivation

Imagine - you're driving a sexy sports-car, blaring Dua's latest song and singing along at the top of your lungs. The wind is in your hair, the sun is sparkling off the beach as you cruise down the highway - think sleek lines, roaring engine, it's vibes on vibes. Now, imagine the same car running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. Apart from feeling like the opening scene to any horror movie set in the outback - it's also changed the value of the car. No longer a sexy sports-car, more like a very expensive piece of metal.

Just like the car of my dreams, leaders too require constant fuel to keep moving forward and be able to create value in their roles. And this fuel - in the sense of leaders - is our motivation. Our journey through our own growth is FULL of ups and downs, learning curves and wins - to be able to maintain momentum and stay motivated - we need to know what gives us motivation to keep going and what drains our motivational tank.

In our previous blog, we explored the upward spiral of learning, a continuous cycle of learning, creating, and applying. This spiral represents the engine of leadership growth. However, like any engine, it needs fuel, and motivation serves as this critical fuel.


๐ŸŽ๏ธ The Role of Motivation in Leadership Growth

Motivation is what keeps you leaping up your upward spiral of learning. It’s the driving force that propels leaders to seek new knowledge (Learn), personalise this knowledge (Create), and put it into action (Apply). Without motivation, the learning process can become stagnant, and the spiral can come to a grinding halt [screeech]. 

Allow me to introduce the Self-Determination Theory: The Self-Determination Theory (SDT), developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, provides insight into motivation. According to SDT, there are three core psychological needs that are crucial for fostering intrinsic motivation:

  • Autonomy: Feeling in control of your own decisions and actions.
  • Competence: Effectively engaging with your environment and pursuing mastery.
  • Relatedness: Establishing meaningful connections with others.

In leadership growth, ensuring that these psychological needs are met can significantly impact motivation levels. Leaders who feel autonomous are more likely to take initiative, those who feel competent are more confident in their abilities, and those with a sense of relatedness can effectively collaborate and communicate. Each of these elements feeds into the Learn-Create-Apply cycle, fuelling the upward spiral of learning.


โ˜ ๏ธ Why Motivation Ebbs: Identifying the Drainers

๐Ÿ‘Ž Overwhelm and Burnout: Leadership growth is an intense process, requiring constant learning and adaptation. However, the relentless pace can sometimes become overwhelming, leading to burnout. When you are burnt out, the drive to learn and create diminishes significantly.

๐Ÿ‘Ž The Illusion of Plateauing: There are times when leaders feel they have reached a plateau. This plateau is often an illusion – a false perception that they have reached the peak of their growth. This perception can cause a decline in motivation as the sense of challenge and progress wanes. This is also a really awkward place where ego lives, and it's not just living, it's hanging out in it's underpants, eating icecream and sitting in the way of your growth. Someone who thinks they don't need to grow is someone who always has an excuse for their behaviour, always goes on the defensive about feedback and genuinely feels like they know everything they need to know. 

๐Ÿ‘Ž External Pressures and Lack of Autonomy: External factors such as organisational politics, lack of support, or rigid structures can stifle intrinsic motivation. When leaders feel they don’t have autonomy in their actions or decisions, or the opportunity to grow, their internal drive for growth can falter. It could look like having no clear path of career advancement, or being shut down constantly when trying to exercise new skills and actually put their leadership growth to use.

๐Ÿ‘Ž Fear of Failure: Fear of making mistakes or failing can inhibit leaders from taking risks and experimenting. This fear hampers the application phase of the learning spiral and can be a significant drainer of motivation. If you're too scared to try new things because you might mess it up - you won't be trying new things, therefore you sadly won't be learning any new things either.


โค๏ธ‍๐Ÿ”ฅ Fuelling Your Inner Engine: Strategies to Sustain Motivation

Let's reflect back on SDT, and look at ways to keep your motivation flowing, and your leadership skills growing. Oh, unintentional rhyme but I'm kinda into it.

  • We want Autonomy: Feeling in control of your own decisions and actions.
    • Set goals for yourself and your own career. What do you want to achieve as a leader?
    • Ensure that you have the power and agency to pursue those goals. If you don't - what's in your way? You'll need to remove that if you want to be motivated for yourself.
    • When things feel out of your control, for example you don't think you have the autonomy to grow at work, you need to figure out if it's the right place for you and where you want to go next.
  • We need Competence: Effectively engaging with your environment and pursuing mastery.
    • It's crucial to keep the bigger picture in mind. Regularly reflecting on long-term goals and the impact you wish to make can reignite the drive to grow and evolve.

    • Divide your goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. By achieving these smaller milestones, you sustain a sense of accomplishment and progress, keeping the motivational fire burning.

    • Resilience is the ability to withstand challenges and bounce back. Drawing from Angela Duckworth’s research on grit, developing resilience involves perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Cultivating grit can help you navigate the inevitable challenges and maintain the motivational momentum. In my leadership programs we focus Resilience, Discipline and Grit, how to build the skills on the upward spiral and add them in a very real, practical way to your skills because I know how having those skills sets you up for your career long term.
    • Mastery is possible with wellbeing, make sure you give yourself lots of time for rest and recovery in-between sprints of growth and learning.
  • We seek Relatedness: Establishing meaningful connections with others.
    • Create your support network of peers, a coach, and mentors. Don't ask the wrong people for support e.g. your best friend who, while well meaning, isn't going to be able to provide you with the feedback you need. We often fall into the trap of asking our loved ones for support - amazing - but also - be careful, thinking about their experience and attitude, are they the best person to give you advice? Create your peer group of leaders who can be honest with you, share other perspectives and help you grow.
    • Ask for feedback - so you build your awareness and stay on top of your skill levels.
    • Embrace failures and share what you're learning with others. Reframe failure as an essential part of the learning process. Understand that mistakes are stepping stones in your growth journey. When you embrace failure as learning, you free yourself from the fear that hinders experimentation and application.


๐Ÿšง A few more sign posts to help guide you!

It's important to understand that leadership growth is not a destination but an ongoing journey. Your skills and capabilities will constantly evolve, and this process doesn’t end; it simply transforms, your goals change, your skills grow and the challenges you face evolve.

Remember that it’s up to you to keep your motivational levels high. External factors might influence your journey, but ultimately, the motivational drive comes from within. Take ownership of your development and proactively seek ways to stay engaged and motivated.

When you’re motivated, it doesn’t just benefit you. Your team, colleagues, and business thrive too. A motivated leader is more innovative, efficient, and can inspire others to be the same. 


๐Ÿชž You know what time it is....

Thanks for sticking with my car/road analogies through this ๐Ÿ˜‚ I want you to take some time to reflect on these questions:

A. What are the signs that your motivational tank is nearing empty?

  • Are you feeling exhausted or uninterested in your work?
  • Do you find it difficult to engage with your team?
  • Are you avoiding challenges that you would have normally taken head-on?

B. How can you realign your actions with your core values and long-term goals?

  • Can you identify values that are important to you but currently not being served?
  • What changes can you make in your daily activities to ensure they are in sync with your values?

C. What steps will you take to break down your goals into more manageable pieces?

  • Have you considered dividing a big project into smaller, more achievable tasks?
  • Can you create a timeline with milestones to have a clearer view of the progress?



Happy refuelling! 


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