Motivation for Followership

We’re already half-way through the first month of the new year: how are your Resolutions holding up? Sticking with that new habit, implementing that new routine, stretching yourself in new ways, making wiser choices, becoming healthier (physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally)?

Motivation is a prevalent theme at this time of year. Where there is hope and anticipation for what the next 12 months might hold, there’s the opportunity to build upon some intrinsic motivation to try new things and implement new practices.

On the other hand, for those that made a fresh start in some aspect of life on January 1st, question marks may already begin to surface about perpetuating the initial motivation for hundreds of more days.

Personally, to develop my engagement with photography as a hobby, I committed to creating a photo every day—known as a ‘365 Project’. But despite the fact that photography is a truly life-giving outlet for me and that I’ve done well these first two weeks, I’m wondering if I’ll be able to sustain this motivation for the remainder of the year. (You can view some of my past photography at, and some of my current pictures on Facebook under #365pic.)

As I discuss in Embracing Followership, there are a variety of motivators and rewards which fuel excellent followership: affirmation, promotion, connection, and support are all external resources which can assist our ability to make our very best contributions.

But the most powerful motivators are the intrinsic ones: your sense of vision/calling; personal burdens, goals, and aims; a feeling of ownership. (See especially Chapters 7 & 12.)

challengechangeIn the book The Challenge of Change in Organizations (Barger & Kirby; 1995), the authors state: “Organizations depend on motivated employees who focus on their tasks, accept responsibility, and put forth their best efforts” (p.53).

For me, the outcomes of motivation are vital, and tremendous: focus, responsibility, and best efforts. No group or association can ‘afford’ to operate under prolonged issues of low morale or demotivation.

The authors go on to note that intrinsic motivators are more certain and reliable than external ones: others may be able to withhold pay or restrict perks, to limit encouragement or stifle career advancement, but no one can take away your personal sense of care and concern for issues of importance to you, nor can they erase your inner vision or calling.

threesignsPatrick Lencioni, in his book The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (a.k.a. The Truth About Employee Engagement), offers three causes of job misery: anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement. In short, satisfaction in our associations will come if we are known, if our contributions are significant (see, and if we have reliable ways of identifying and assessing our impact. Without covering these elements, misery—the epitome of demotivation—results.

Followers need opportunity to make an impact, to assert their unique value by giving input and making a real contribution to the lives of others and the larger endeavor. Otherwise, their attachment to any project will be hardly better than yet another New Year’s Resolution: no perseverance, no abiding ownership, no real achievement.

As a follower, what motivating elements might you be missing in the tasks and involvements set before you this year?

If you’re a leader, what might you do differently to externally encourage those valuable internal motivational resources of ownership, vision, and calling? (Our free Leadership Self-Evaluation can help you answer this!)

Regardless of how my photographic 365 Project may turn out, the questions, awareness, and need surrounding this topic of motivation will be an important factor in both my leadership and my followership this year. Let me encourage you, your team, work group, committee, or organization to similarly take stock of individual and group morale, and see if there aren’t new levels of excellence that might be fueled by unlocking the internal reservoirs of motivation for 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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