The Empowered Blog

Deep Motivations, Not Competencies, Drive Leadership Performance.

What if…

  • You could easily predict the performance of your leaders, your teams and your organization?motivation1
  • You could gain access to the underlying motivators that drive a leader or employee to do their best work?
  • You could eliminate costly hiring mistakes and determine in advance to what extent a candidate will perform well in a role?

Such a solution exists and can unleash the potential and performance within your organization.

It’s called motivational profiling.  Your underlying (and often unconscious) attitudes and motivations determine what you pay attention to and focus on in your leadership role.

These deep motivation and attitudinal patterns  (MAPs) ultimately drive – yours and others’ –

  • Behaviors
  • Decision making style
  • Requirements for change and variety
  • Dominant motivation driver
  • Levels of strategic and visionary thinking
  • Relationship to norms/rules
  • Orientation toward innovation and creativity
  • And much more

Drawing on recent evolutions in cognitive science research, motivational profiling is a state-of-the-art assessment tool that provides a window into yours and your employees’ intrinsic motivations and attitudes at work.

These intrinsic motivations are the invisible forces that pull you and your organization in a certain direction.   By uncovering these patterns, you can unlock the motivational code for improving engagement, productivity and performance in your workplace.

Before delving into 7 key leadership motivation patterns, let’s first look at 3 often-missed truths about performance.


3 truths every leader needs to know about performance

1.  Most companies mistakenly believe that competencies are the #1 driver of performance.  

Not true!  Just because you have a certain capability doesn’t mean that you are motivated to use it.  We all know people who are highly educated and/or talented, yet just get by in their work role.  As Zig Ziglar said,

“Attitude, not Aptitude, determines Altitude.”

Competency accounts for, at best, 20% of performance.  Yet companies continue to invest in skills development only to be disappointed by little or no difference in performance.

The truth is your motivation patterns account for as much as 60% of performance.  Motivation patterns reflect whether you want to do something, NOT whether you can do it.

2.  Different leadership roles require different motivation patterns for high performance in that role.

While there are certain patterns important to all leaders – such as, a high people interest, specific leadership roles may require different motivational patterns to be successful.

For example,

A successful CFO is likely to have such MAPs (Motivation and Attitudinal patterns) as — strong motivation toward procedures over options; a preference for solving problems over focus on goals; and a high past time orientation that drives focus on traditions, past experience and benchmarks.

A successful CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) is likely to have such MAPs as – strong motivation toward options (ie., how to do something faster, better or cheaper) over procedures; high motivation toward goals, rather than avoiding problems; and high future time orientation with a focus on long term strategies, future customer needs and environmental changes.

Motivational profiling can help you put the best individuals into a specific leadership roles with the best chances of success.  Not only will motivational profiling tell you if an individual is naturally wired to be a successful leader.  It will also tell you for a given leadership role, if he/she is likely to excel.

3.  All behavior is motivated. If you want to change a leader’s behavior, change the motive underlying the behavior.

Common company practices tend to focus on behavioral changes to increase performance.  However, your behavior is a symptom or byproduct of your underlying motives.

Changing just behavior is at best temporary.  For permanent behavioral change, you must change the underlying motivation.

Identify the motive and you will understand the behavior.  Satisfy the motive and you will manage the behavior.


7 motivational patterns of high performance leadership

Since 2002, Carl Harshman — Founder, Institute for Work Attitude and Motivation –  has studied hundreds of business leaders’ MAPs.  He found the following 7 strong (high score) motivation patterns as key drivers of leadership effectiveness and performance.

Goal Orientation

Goal orientation is one of 2 patterns that reflect your direction motivation.  With a high goal orientation score, you are motivated to move toward goals, pleasure or something positive.

Its companion MAP — Problem Solving – reflects to what extent you are motivated to move away from pain, problems or risk.

High performing leaders tend to score high on goal orientation.  They want to focus on and pursue goals more than avoiding problems.


The Breadth pattern reflects to what extent a leader focuses on the “big picture.”  It also reflects a leader’s cognitive style to think in broad, large chunks of information.  Like seeing a landscape from 10,000 feet above.


Its companion pattern is Depth – ie.,, thinking in small chunks of information and focusing on details.  Effective managers are typically more oriented toward details, as are functions like quality control and accounting.

Future Orientation

There are 3 Time Orientation patternsPast, Present and Future.  This set of patterns influences your focus, decision making and thinking style.

High performance leaders tend to think from the future.  They want to pay more attention to a long term, rather than short term, view.  Effective managers, on the other hand, are more Present time oriented to deal with daily activities.


In the context of MAPs assessment, the Power pattern reflects to what extent a leader wants to be in charge.  It is one of three core motivational drivers identified by McClelland.  The other two motivation drivers are Affiliation and Achievement.

High performing leaders score in the healthy range of Power – neither overly strong nor weak.  Too high and the leader becomes domineering.  Too weak and the leader shrinks from being in charge and their own personal power.

People and Group

There are two individual, yet highly related, patterns that high performing leaders tend to score high (or at least normal range) on each.

The People pattern is an interest filter.  A high score means the leader wants to deal with people as part of their role.  Other interest filters are oriented around things, such as systems, tools, money, activity, etc.

The Group pattern is an indication to what extent a leader wants to have contact with people as part of their role.


This is one of three patterns that relates to a leader’s relationship with change.  A high Evolution score is typical of high performing leaders and indicates a motivation for planned, incremental change.  The Evolution pattern is synonymous with “continuous improvement.”

The other 2 change patterns are Sameness and Differences.  For different industries, these 2 patterns may play a more important role for leaders.

Shared Responsibility

This pattern and its companion pattern (Sole Responsibility) indicate a leader’s motivation as it relates to responsibility.

High performing leaders tend to have a high Shared Responsibility score.  It indicates that they are motivated to be great team players and delegators.  They want to collaborate and share responsibility.

By no means, are these the only motivation patterns that can impact your leadership performance.  They serve, however, as a starting point to help you identify to what extent you focus on (or motivated by) these 7 areas.


Real stories … real breakthroughs

When I assess leaders’ motivational patterns, I am looking at both 48 distinct motivational patterns, as well as combination of patterns, as clues about what is hindering or can enhance a leader’s performance.

I now have the luxury of accessing these patterns through an online tool.  It has opened the door to deep insights for many leaders, teams and organizations.

Not only has performance improved, leaders and teams rise to the top of their game, more engaged and motivated.  Below are 2 examples.

1.    Within 6 months, low performers became high performers.  Increased revenues – 33%.

increased performance


Through motivation profiling and Models of Excellence tools, the motivation patterns of high performers within a call center were identified.  Under-performers were trained to replicate motivation patterns of high performers.  Results: 33% increase in revenues in 6 months;  a motivation profile of high performers also served as a recruiting tool for hiring top talent.

2.    Improved leadership teamwork, cohesiveness and performance.

A common leadership issue is being in sync and working as a team.  While some skills come into play for stronger teamwork, the bigger, often missed, issue is the differences in motivation patterns across the leadership team.

The key for this company was to train each leader in their own motivation patterns, as well as those of the other leaders.  When leaders were able to understand each other on a deep motivation level and how their differences were sources of team brilliance (rather than team breakdowns), team communication improved and performance increased.

Check out these free resources for more information:

  • iWAM:  Mapping the New Landscape of Human Performance  (PPT download)
  • Talent Management:  A Focus on Excellence (free 93 page ebook)

Email me with any questions.


Denise Corcoran works with CEOs and executive teams seeking rapid growth yet are challenged by the “invisible barriers” that keep them stuck, overwhelmed or in crisis mode. Her company —The Empowered Business — is one of the few companies providing whole brain, strategic solutions for unleashing leadership and organizational potential. Her secret sauce is assisting CEOs and executive teams develop the “X factor” – i.e., the mindset, attitudes and game-changing thinking -- that drives double and triple digit growth … by design.


Posted by Denise Corcoran on July 14, 2015 in Assessments, Leadership Performance, Mindset, Motivation, Organizational Performance, Top Talent and tagged , , , , , .

Comments are closed.