How to engage your leaders and sustainably increase leadership motivation


Organisations rely on their people to drive their success. Leaders are crucial to ensuring that employees are engaged, productive and stay for the long-term. There is a clear link between leadership and employee engagement. Better leaders drive superior performance for everyone around them. This means lower attrition, higher productivity, and greater innovation.

That makes it vital to ensure that leaders are engaged themselves – after all, you can’t expect employees to give their best if their leaders are not motivated and performing well. Leadership motivation is therefore critical to wider engagement.

What characterises a motivated leader?

Engaged, motivated leaders share key attributes that inspire their teams and drive success.

Demonstrate purpose and vision

They exhibit clear intentions and a strong vision, effectively communicating goals and objectives to their team members. This clarity fosters a shared understanding and alignment, motivating individuals to work towards a common goal. All of this also distinguishes a leader from a manager.

Lead from the front

They lead by example, demonstrating dedication, passion, and perseverance in their own work. They act as role models, always working with integrity, inspiring others to give their best efforts, striving for excellence.

Build an empathetic, supportive environment

Engaged leaders take the time to understand their team members as individuals, and motivate them through constructive feedback and guidance, nurturing talent by offering opportunities for development. They are empathetic leaders, cultivating a supportive and empowering environment where individual achievements are recognised and celebrated.

Show resilience and adaptability

Motivated leaders are optimistic and determined, seeing challenges as opportunities to be overcome. They are adaptable and resilient, maintaining a positive attitude that instils confidence in their team.

Communicate effectively across all channels

They have exceptional communication skills, whether talking one-to-one, in team meetings or via digital channels. Motivated leaders articulate their vision clearly and decisively, ensuring that every team member understands their role and the collective objectives. They actively listen to the concerns and ideas of their team, fostering a culture of open dialogue and collaboration.

Why is leadership engagement and motivation so important?

Leaders have an enormous impact on whether an employee is engaged. Engaged leaders will inspire, support, and lead their teams to deliver the best performance and increase employee engagement. However, on the flip side their behaviours and actions can undermine all efforts at employee engagement or building a positive work culture, sabotaging the company’s wider objectives.

That means you need to focus on leader engagement FIRST if you want to drive employee engagement. Highly engaged and motivated leaders with a sense of purpose are crucial to improving engagement.

1.    We live in a team-based working world

Today organisations tend to operate in teams, rather than following the rigid hierarchies of the past. Building engaged teams is vital. That means that employees are led on a day-to-day basis by their team leaders, rather than the CEO or other senior figures. There are leaders across the organisation at all levels. Companies have to be sure that these leaders are all on board and engaged with business objectives – they will be providing the on the ground engagement and leadership that employees require. And if you’re not engaged yourself, it is pretty much impossible to engage other people.

2.    Leaders provide the bridge between companies and individuals

CEOs are focused on the future, setting strategies to take the business forward over the next 1-2 years. In contrast, employees are focused on the here and now – what they are doing in their job today and tomorrow. It is up to middle leaders to bridge these two, very different timeframes. They require the leadership skills to motivate employees about future strategy by explaining what it means to them in their role. So, they have to understand and be fully engaged with the strategy themselves.

3.    Leaders set local culture and behaviours

Leaders set the tone for their team – they should demonstrate the right leadership behaviours that support company culture and help deliver high performance. They are essentially ambassadors for company strategy. If they are disengaged or simply not on board with organisational objectives, they can actively undermine the culture a business is trying to build. This could be through their own behaviour or by encouraging people to act in the wrong ways. For example, a sales team could focus solely on hitting their targets by selling products that they know aren’t right for particular customers. All of this means leaders need to have a deep understanding of what the right behaviours are and be committed to following them in their working lives.

4.    Leaders help drive change

Most organisations are going through some sort of change – whether it is transforming to meet new competitors, becoming more digital or adopting new hybrid ways of working. While CEOs set strategy at a high level, motivating and engaging teams is the key responsibility for leaders. So, they have to be a positive role model for change to encourage and coach their people. Employees have a choice about whether they are engaged or not – leaders have to have the right skills and abilities to persuade them to become and remain engaged and high-performing. McKinsey research suggests that supporting employees is a key trait behind 89% of overall leadership effectiveness.

How can companies motivate their leaders?

Engaging your leaders requires a different approach to more general employee engagement. While leaders might make up a small percentage of your overall workforce, they have a big impact on their teams, and their levels of engagement. It is easy for organisations to run employee engagement programmes that look to cover all staff, whatever their level. But this one size fits all approach doesn’t meet the specific requirements of leadership engagement. Your leadership engagement plan and leadership engagement activities have to be tailored to individuals. Essentially you need to adopt different tactics if you are to engage and align your leaders with your objectives.

1. Lead leadership engagement from the top

Companies should adopt specific programmes to engage leaders and middle leaders, led by senior management or the CEO, supported by human resources. Based on their feedback, this will provide a focus on their needs and help drive improvements in their working environment and experience.

2. Audit leadership engagement

Start by understanding how engaged individual leaders are with your company. Measure engagement through surveys and see where any gaps are. Listen and analyse their feedback to see where there are particular areas of concern, and if these are personal to them, or are shared by their peers.

3. Democratize feedback

Traditional 360-degree methods of gathering leadership feedback are resource and time intensive – and in many cases this means HR teams have to prioritise their activities for a small group of higher level leaders. In these cases, feedback is centralised and calendar-driven. The problem with this approach is that it inhibits opportunities to develop and progress, as only open, unbiased feedback will uncover blind spots.

4. Offer individual support

Give your leaders the chance to develop based on their individual needs. Develop tailor-made development programmes and accompany your leaders on their journey.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, it is now easy to personalise your leadership development and provide your leaders with the programmes they need.

5. Use 360-degree feedback

360° feedback shows your leaders strengths and areas for development – and can therefore lead to meaningful improvements. As it is not just one-sided, but brings together feedback from immediate bosses, team members and colleagues, you get a holistic view of your leaders’ performance, providing the chance to improve their self-awareness. It is often easier to accept feedback from a range of people than from just one.

6. Give your leaders control

Leaders need more than just access to feedback They should also be able to derive concrete measures from this feedback, create their own development plan and ultimately monitor their progress – this provides them with full control over their future growth.

The good thing is that intelligent tools with AI integration support them in delivering this. Tivian’s Leadership 360, for example, not only collects feedback, it also directly suggests suitable measures and opportunities for improvement so that your leaders can create their own action plans and continue to develop. This makes it an ideal complement to personal management coaching – and a solution that can be made available to every leader.

7. Support your leaders in their development

It is important to give your leaders control over their own development. However, HR teams should also be involved in the process and be available to them at all times. They should support, moderate, and advise.

It is also vital to see the big picture, for example, to recognise trends and patterns across different regions or based on leaders’ demographic characteristics.

8. Develop sustainable development programmes

Thanks to digital tools and the use of AI, leaders can focus on strategic tasks and devote their time to their employees instead of administration. Your programmes should therefore focus on the development of soft skills – and thus support your leaders in the areas that really matter.

How Tivian helps

Tivian’s Leadership 360 offers your leaders round-the-clock feedback and real insights. The tool provides real data, giving you the opportunity to drive improvements and increase engagement – among your leaders and your employees. Personalised dashboards give all leaders the opportunity to identify their hidden strengths, weaknesses and, above all, blind spots.

Learn more about Leadership 360, about leadership in general or find out what is important in leadership development today.