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Are You Leading or Luring?

Motivation is an essential business resource. It’s the motivated employee who spots the whale in the distance or lands the next big fish. You can hire qualified people and pay them well—offer every incentive and perquisite you can imagine to get them on board—but without their willingness to pull the oars, your project is dead in the water.

Most bosses try to get their people moving in positive ways.

For some this means diving in with the crew, setting direction and pace and inspiring performance with their own. Others prefer to chum the waters from above and see who rises to the bait.

The first group let’s call captains of industry, participant leaders willing to grab an oar and pull their own weight. The others we’ll call anglers: bosses who lure their people into action with tasty rewards.

If you think the difference between these approaches is so much small fry, consider the following leadership roles and ask which one you’d rather work for, captain or angler?

AS A RESOURCE MANAGER: The angler baits his hooks lightly. He never offers more incentive than he thinks will get results. But the captain puts herself on the hook every time. She holds nothing back she thinks can help her crew succeed.

AS A TEAM PLAYER: The angler tosses his lines in the water from a position of relative safety. He won’t get his feet wet if he doesn’t have to. Whereas the captain jumps in (sharks be damned!) and puts herself in line for whatever faces those who follow her.

AS THE EXEMPLAR: The angler prefers to be invisible, a mysterious force who gives or withholds his gifts at a whim and always keeps you guessing. Instead, the captain keeps herself in view. She accepts her role as an example to follow and never hides from her crew when she’s needed.

In Louisiana almost everyone likes to fish. But for the sake of our crewmates at the office, I say we leave the bait and tackle at home.

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