Employee performance can be described as a combination of ability and motivation. Securing employees with the best ability can be achieved through effective recruitment and training but motivating employees is a continuous process and a key leadership responsibility. Transformative leaders know how to maximize performance by motivating and even inspiring employees.
Employees have distinctive motivational needs and a transformative leader will understand these needs. Most employees have the primary work needs of safety, respect, and reinforcement of their self-esteem. These needs are based on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and are basic work requirements for most people. Establishing a safe, respectful, and rewarding work environment should be a foundational goal of all leaders.
Employees are also motivated by fairness and they seek to achieve a condition of workplace equity. Managers should know that employees compare what they contribute to an organization through their work and what rewards they receive to what their colleagues contribute and receive (e.g., good treatment, pay, and employment status). Employees are demotivated by work inequity and this leads to decreased productivity. Transformative leaders pay close attention to employee outputs and rewards and make appropriate adjustments to increase equity.
The transformative leader uses the following actions to maximize employee motivation and productivity:
- Mandates that the work environment is safe, respectful, and rewarding for all employees;
- Matches work requirements to appropriate compensation and other rewards;
- Promotes advancement and other recognition for high performers;
- Promotes employees’ good works throughout the organization;
- Treats all employees with respect and looks for opportunities to promote their professional self-esteem;
- Communicates with employees frequently, recognizes small successes, and provides constructive coaching fairly and respectfully;
- Takes time to listen to employees and secure feedback;
- Uses threats of or actual discipline rarely and judiciously, with the exception of zero tolerance issues (i.e. violence, sexual harassment, or corruption).
Transformative leaders work to motivate and inspire employees through rational persuasion, inspirational appeal, and personal appeal. Transformative leaders avoid using their positions to exert pressure or force employees to perform.