For motivational styles, consider past, glean from it

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Max Grindstaff
  • 75th Air Base Wing and Ogden Air Logistics Center Command Chief
One of the best lessons in leadership I've learned was from watching Harrison Ford. Not him specifically, but if you'll recall, one of the "Indiana Jones" movies was centered on the Crusades.

After watching that particular movie, I started to read a lot about medieval history and, in particular, the Crusades. The following is not a religious article. It is simply a historical account of a particularly effective motivational approach.

The Crusades were nine separate campaigns stretching from the late 11th century until the early 13th century, between Western Christendom and the Muslim world in an effort to recapture the Holy Land. Post-Dark Ages. Europe was a tough place to live -- plagues, famines, church controversy and feudal life were several of the challenges people faced then.

They were living in tough times, but were nonetheless, devoutly religious. Pope Urban II concluded that a crusade was the only way to save Christianity and the western lands, and he found a unique way to motivate Europe to do just that.

In a sermon at Clermont, France, in 1095, the Pope asked the assembled crowd of bishops to spread the word across Europe that he, as direct link to God, would absolve all past sins and guarantee entry into Heaven for all those who went on the Crusade. Wow! That's a pretty powerful motivation to join the team. Guaranteed entry in to Heaven -- it doesn't get much better than that for most folks.

This provided any God-fearing person who had committed sins with an irresistible way out of eternal damnation. Most believed that by retaking Jerusalem, they would go straight to heaven after death. Some historians say Urban's sermon proved to be the most effective speech in English history, and it resulted in the overwhelming popular support of the First Crusade.

Why it is so important to get folks motivated today? The Air Force is almost half the size it was in the early 1980s, and while we've had great success in leveraging technology, eliminating waste and gaining efficiencies in many areas, motivating effective teams has never been more critical than now. Effective motivational leadership is the absolute key to accomplishing the mission to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.

Frederick Herzberg, a noted management guru, believed in intrinsic motivation -- that the willingness to go the extra mile comes from within. I agree. That's right on the money, but not everyone is hardwired like this. Some folks will need creative motivation.

You don't need to guarantee entry into heaven, but you do need to find out what motivates people. Whether it's simply consistent leadership, praise or rewards that they desire, you need to find those right ways to make your teams produce results. Some people work for love of the job, others toward personal goals. Some like the camaraderie of a close team that produces quality results, and some thrive on tough challenges and frequent change.

It's not all about making people happy and giving them what they want, it's about crafting effective units and teams to accomplish the mission. If you do a good job at taking care of the people, and that's in part served by fulfilling their needs, they'll take care of the mission.

When unit personnel know you're a leader concerned with their needs, the unit will pulsate with excitement, energy, camaraderie and productivity. Mission accomplishment gets a lot easier and is more rewarding with a high-motivation, high-morale organization.

There are many theories on how to be an effective motivator, find one that works for you.