Employee motivation for leaders: like the little prince


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Text comes from: Mitarbeitermotivation: Die neue Lust auf Leistung (2014) from Michael Hübler, published by BusinessVillage Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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Who one Team does not just have to drive it to work, but to show them a goal. Just do it like the little prince. But is it really the job of an executive to motivate their employees?

blue ocean

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Michael Hübler hatchlerMichael Hübler is a graduate teacher, coach and consultant.

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Like the little prince

Often cited is the saying of de Saint-Exupéry, father of the little prince. It sounds so easy, yet this wisdom is often unequaled:

“If you want to build a ship, do not drum up men to get wood, assign tasks and organize work, but teach the men the longing for the vast, endless sea.”

The purpose of leadership

The purpose of leadership is to bring people to accomplishments that they would not accomplish on their own. A team achieves more with a good coach than on its own.

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Against this background, hierarchies - albeit in a less dominant guise - no longer appear as antiquated as they are presented today (see also the section on page 85ff Sense and nonsense of hierarchies).

Example: team decisions

You must make a joint decision with your project team, as soon as possible. Is the new mixer now sea blue, moss green or rather black and red?

  • Scenario 1: Everyone defends his contribution and hardly sees that other opinions could at least be as successful. After all, no one knows 100 percent what will happen in the future.
  • Scenario 2: No one can take responsibility for the decision. In his new book, Gerd Gigerenzer speaks of the tendency to defensive decisions (see Gigerenzer 2013: 51 ff.): If we remain the same, we can be less accused of a flop than a completely new, still unknown strategy.

The solution

Each person prioritizes the three colors. This makes it clear that Colleague A would most like sea blue, is satisfied with moss green as well, but black and red does not want at all. Colleague B is similar, only sea blue and moss green are interchanged.

While colleague C with black-red alone stands, but could still agree on sea blue most likely. Thus the consensus clearly goes in the direction of sea blue.

Is motivation a leadership task?

You have probably already heard of a number of possibilities for the promotion of motivation - from individual goals to systemic thinking and rule of thumb, the atmospheric check up to the altruism question.

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But is motivation really a management task? I take this opportunity to raise some questions that critically examine the topic of leadership and motivation.

Way with the prejudices

To clear up a widespread prejudice: leadership is not the same motivation. Leadership is more than that.

In doing so, the tasks are clearly distributed: Managers should increasingly focus on processes, and have to look at finances, structures, tools, material, resources, locations or machines.

Leadership - more than motivation and conflict management

On the other hand, executives should take care of people, how machines control, resources or locations affect their employees.

This quickly leads to the fact that, as the person responsible for the personnel, only the topic of motivation and, if necessary, the topic of conflict management on its own agenda can be seen.

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The tasks of a manager

A list of leadership tasks brings light here. In order to investigate the tasks of a leadership, in the sense of human leadership, there are three central questions:

  • What do your own superiors expect from you?
  • What do your employees expect from you?
  • What are your requirements for yourself?

Executives in the mediation role

For a better overview, you should classify these tasks and expectations into a schema with the categories realistic and important.

The mediating role of managers between companies and employees becomes clear. They should convey visions and goals of the company in such a way that employees are ideally motivated to give their best.


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  1. Christian Kaiser

    Seems to be an interesting series. Topic # Leadership #Motivation Teil1:
    Part 2:

  2. Joachim Berendt

    In general, it is always good to know the expectations and also to inquire.

    In many workshops, we have already developed requirements profiles for executives of commercial employees. In other words, commercial employees have also created their own requirements profile for themselves, which is a self-requirement, which in their view would be necessary for the superiors.

    We did the same with executives. They developed a requirements profile for commercial employees and a requirement profile for executives, ie a requirement profile for themselves.

    The result: There were hardly any differences or deviations in the requirements profiles, which were developed by the management staff and the commercial employees. The content is almost always identical within a company. Corporate culture determines the content. In addition, many values ​​are consistent across all hierarchical levels, even in very different companies.

    The challenge for executives is now to meet these shared values ​​in the requirements profiles. And that is to say: the superior does not sit in the sense of sitting in front of and blocking, but in the sense of pretend and model.

    Joachim Berendt
    www.berendt-partner.de, BERENDT & PARTNER Management Consulting, Saarbrücken,

    • Simone Janson

      Hello Mr. Berendt,
      thank you for this valuable reference. Knowing the expectation is always an important keyword.

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