No Ambition for Position

As 2016 closes out, it’s a common consideration to look ahead at 2017 and to think about plans, desires, and dreams for what next year will bring. Opportunities, changes, achievements…the clean slate of a new year seems to welcome them all.

“New Year’s Resolutions” are part and parcel of this season as well. What commitments will we make in order to best position ourselves to take advantage of the possibilities for the new calendar year? How will we motivate ourselves to be what we know we can be and do what we hope we can do?

One of my early lessons in followership was that I didn’t necessarily need to have a leadership role as my driving ambition. Despite what much of my culture told (tells) me, I am significant as I am, even without a formal title or elevated status in the organizational hierarchy. After taking on a leadership role, I can ask myself the question again: what motivates me? Should I be anxious to take another step up the institutional ladder? If I don’t have that aspiration, then what?

If ambition for position isn’t to be my primary motivator, than what desires can provide the impetus to send me into the new year and enhance my contributions to the various groups that I participate in?

We are each motivated by a vast array of factors. At the fundamental level (as identified by Abraham Maslow), individuals need food, shelter, clothing, security…even relationship, esteem, and personal development. Nationally, Geert Hofstede has identified that different cultures are motivated to construct themselves so as to avoid uncertainty to varying degrees–a need for minimizing the unknown and unexpected.

But, practically, what motivates me in the workplace? In the community association? In my church involvement? In my volunteer association?

There are various lists of motivators out there–identifying internal and external factors that impel us to get involved: power (including expanding responsibility), affiliation (identity, stability, belongingness), achievement (accomplishment, reward/salary, career advancement), a desire to experience internal self-worth or external recognition, reputation (individual or group), etc.

As you consider your impending entrance into 2017, as you look ahead to the opportunities you will have to participate and contribute in any variety of projects, working groups, and teams, what will motivate you toward excellence? As you identify resolutions for the New Year, what desires will encourage you to actually fulfill these self-commitments?

Are your motivations suited to how you’re living them out–do your external actions and internal compass line up (the definition of integrity)? Are there ways that your peers, friends, co-workers, and fellow volunteers can supplement and support your own motivations in order to encourage you to accomplish what you intend to do?

Do your public commitments and your private promises fit together to contribute to the larger vision that you have for yourself and your contribution?

There are all manner of things that I could do in 2017. What should I do? What do I want to do, and why do I want to do it? What does the group need from me? Why am I lackluster about engaging in some things that seem really good for me to do?

Before you finalize all of your resolutions for this New Year, before you make your plans and attempt to map out in detail the next 12 months, take a moment to identify some of your primary motivations in various aspects of your life. Not only will this help clarify how you’ll take your steps onto that next calendar page, but it will also help you to determine what direction you should be heading in as you make your move.

All the best to you as you engage in 2017 with a desire for excellence in your followership!


For encouragement and guidance in understanding and applying yourself to following and leading with excellence and helping others to do the same, see:


Followership Guide coverEmbracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture (by Allen Hamlin Jr; Feb 2016), and  A Discussion Guide for Teams & Small Groups (Dec 2017).

Along with our variety of free downloadable resources and the index of other posts on this site.

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