Motivation and Leadership for Executive Members, Managers & Committee Chairs

Factsheet - ISSN 1198-712X   -   Copyright Queen's Printer for Ontario
Agdex#: 057
Publication Date: 11/96
Order#: 96-001
Last Reviewed: 11/97
History: Replaces Factsheet No. 89-178 "Motivation And Leadership"
Written by: Judy Taggart - Rural Organization Specialist/OMAFRA

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Member
  3. The Organization
  4. The Leader
  5. Summary


Our most powerful force, our strongest resource is people. The greatest asset of any organization is its people. The enthusiasm people have comes from their motivation. The question is, "What turns on that motivation power in people?"

There is no simple formula to stimulate motivation. Motivation comes from within the member. A thorough examination of: 1. the member, 2. the organization, and 3. the leader can help to create a setting that will spark a member's motivation.

The Member

Find out the needs of the members

A person joins an organization because there is something to gain from being there. Members have needs and in some way see their needs can be fulfilled through the organization. The needs of members are what gives them their motivation. Understanding needs of members will provide clues to what motivates them.

Abraham Maslow developed a theory related to an individual's needs that is illustrated through the "Hierarchy of Needs" triangle.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Diagram

These five areas of needs are found in each individual. Found at the base of the triangle are the highest priority needs (physical and security), ones that an individual is motivated to fulfil first. For example, John hasn't eaten since breakfast; by 8 o'clock at night his first priority (or motivator) is to get something to eat. John has a need at the physical level. Once his hunger is satisfied he may feel a need in one of the higher levels in the triangle. Most members of an organization will have joined to fulfil some need in the upper three levels of the triangle. Some members may be involved just because they want to be with their friends: the social level. Others may be involved because of the recognition they receive: fitting in with the ego level. Those members with a self-actualization need become involved to develop themselves, to learn something new or perhaps reach their potential by using a hidden skill or talent.

Each of us has a hierarchy of needs. Consciously or unconsciously, we set priorities to fulfil those needs. Once a need is met it no longer is a priority and we are no longer motivated to fulfil that need. If an organization is not filling the needs of the member, then the member may leave the organization.

It is difficult to analyze where each member of the organization fits into this triangle but a general awareness may help you to meet their needs. People are not predictable. They constantly react to different situations in different ways. The simplest way to find out the needs of each member is to ask. Remember, once members tell you their needs, those needs will occasionally change. Activities, programs and tasks assigned will have to continually change or be modified in order to keep up with changing needs.

Ivan Scheier created an exercise called The Window of Work that could be used with organization members. Divide a piece of plain paper into three sections: Glad Gifts, Quests, and No, No's. Ask members to each write under Glad Gifts all the things they enjoy doing. Under Quests they would jot down things they would like to learn. The "No, No's" section allows members to outline tasks or activities that they detest and would not do for the organization. Sally, when asked to fill out a "Window of Work", wrote:

Window of Work

Name: Sally

Glad Gifts (I enjoy)
  • horticulture
  • meeting new people
  • socializing
  • stamp collecting
  • taking pictures
Quests (I want to)
  • weed identification
  • working with a video camera
  • public speaking
No, No's (I don't want to)
  • work in a booth
  • bookkeeping

Match the needs to the task

Once the member's needs have been identified, help fill those needs for the benefit of not only the member but also the organization. Sally might, for example, enjoy helping organize a meeting on weed identification since she has identified it as a "quest". She benefits by fulfilling her needs and the organization benefits from having an education meeting on weed identification.

The Organization

Take an objective look at the organization. Some procedures or practices can either help or hinder motivation.

Are your meetings interesting?

Organization meetings must be interesting to stimulate motivation. Sometimes small changes such as a different setting can help make things more exciting. Ask your members for ideas on how to create meetings that are right for them.

Involve members in goal setting

Do the goals of your organization match what members see as goals? Members will be more motivated and committed to achieving goals if they participate in creating them. Perhaps the group needs to look at its goals and as a group plan how they can be reached. Members will understand the reasons for doing the things they plan to do.

Look at the task

  1. The tasks that "no one wants to do" should be changed. The "Clean-up" committee, for example, may be difficult to get volunteers for. Changing the task of cleaning up to involve socializing may help to motivate volunteers.
  2. Provide volunteers with worthwhile tasks. They may be looking for a challenge.
  3. The amount of risk involved is another factor to consider when matching members with tasks. The task can be challenging but it must be realistic in the member's opinion. Depending on the person, he or she may or may not want to take on a task where there is a chance of failure. Risk is very frightening to some people.
  4. Variety is important too! A task performed over and over by a person soon becomes monotonous. Change the task of the person doing it.

Use volunteer job descriptions to recruit members

Written job descriptions are an excellent tool for helping to get members motivated. If members can see what is expected of them, they will be motivated to fill their positions. It is difficult for people to be motivated to do something if they are unsure of what that something is.

Give recognition

The organization needs to make sure members are appropriately recognized for their contributions. Recognition is an added incentive for members, perhaps fulfilling a need in the "Ego" portion of Maslow's triangle.

Be flexible enough to encourage the modern volunteer

Life has changed over the years and so have volunteers. Organizations have to keep up with the times. Ask the members if there are things the organization can do to fit in better with their life styles.


  • child care facilities; evening or weekend meetings
  • car pooling; facilities for the handicapped

The Leader

A leader must examine his/her leadership style. Does it encourage motivation?

Have a positive attitude

A positive attitude is a must in a leader. Motivation is affected by the group's morale and morale is affected by the leader's attitude. Not only must a leader be positive, but also determined to change negative experiences of the group into growing experiences.

Know the members

Each member is equally important to the success of an organization. Make sure all are treated as such. Respect each member for his/her abilities - everyone has something to contribute. At times, a little encouragement from the leader can bring forward a member's abilities for the benefit of the organization. It adds a personal touch to your leadership if you make an effort to know each member by name. Members will develop a sense of belonging and be motivated to contribute to the organization's goals. A word of caution: find a balance of being friendly without forgetting that there are jobs to be done.


Unfortunately, there is no switch that easily turns on a person's motivation. Motivation has to be sparked from within the person. A leader can help to create an environment that meets the needs of the organization's volunteers. A motivated group of individuals will surely follow!

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