Leaders and Motivation

18 April 2021


Motivation is instrumental to stimulate employees to act or perform better. Figure 1 reminds leaders and organisations that the lower-order needs, are required before the motivation rises to a higher-order. Being innate and comprehensible to apply, it resonates in our daily lives. In most cases, managers and organisation focuses on the lower levels but stops at psychological and self-fulfilling needs (Pierr 2015).

In the case Lim Hock Chee, CEO of Sheng Siong Supermarkets who strives to make employee’s job meaningful and prospects for hardworking staff to reach self-actualisation through bursary awards for their children’s education, and scholarships for part-time degree programmes (Jeanette, 2021).

The Vroom’s expectancy as illustrated in figure 2, correlates efforts and performance positively, favourable performance will result in a desirable reward, and rewards will assure an important need, the yearning to gratify the need, justifies the efforts to be meaningful. In the example of Sheng Siong, the leadership team has been fair in their remunerations in the past and the employees knew if they working hard, they will be rewarded fairly with a deserving bonus (Jeanette, 2021).

Leaders will apply various styles that addresses these motivation elements to influence the behaviours of employees to act or behave in a particular way. These motivations are crucial to the organisation success where leaders foster and observe (Evans, 1970).

Power and control

Figure 3 illustrates the five forms of power identified by French and Raven where leaders will exert their influence through these powers to inspire and motivate (Lunenberg, 2012).

Transformational leadership to inspire trust and loyalty

Transformational leadership style motivates to innovate and influence employees to perform independently. Its characteristic includes openness, agreeableness, consciousness, and extraversion (Kunert & Lewis, 1987). They assert their referent personal powers and expertise as seen in figure 3 to inspire and motivate employees. Figure 4 illustrates the 4 traits of transformational leadership that influence employee motivation, inspire trust, and loyalty at work.

The story of Anthony Tan, CEO of Grab is inspiring and built the first decacom in South East Asia with a valuation of more than US10 billion in less than a decade.  He has partaken in various corporate social activities but the most prominent is working with Microsoft to reskilling of the drivers (Eamon 2020) and raising funds for children with cancer (Milad 2021). He is also known as charismatic leader who facilitates a positive foundation for creativity and innovation which is highly motivational for the organization. Anthony is an extraordinary change agent and will be able to reinvent an entire organisation and even how the society is commuting and living today. Anthony is an extraordinary change agent and will be able to reinvent an entire organisation and even how the society is commuting and living today.

Charismatic leadership inspires creativity and innovation.

Max Weber developed the charismatic leadership theory and asserts it’s exemplary and distinctive character to influence the followers. The leader is dissimilar to ordinary men and treated as endowed with superhuman, or exceptional powers and qualities (Conger & Kanungo, 1994).  Research done by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, discovers that the exemplary leader portrays 5 core practises as depicted and explained in figure 5 based on the example of Grab leadership.  (Jim & Barry 2012). As we see from figure 1 when the team reaches self-actualisation, they own self-confidence, assertiveness, and a sense of purpose and vision. Anthony inspires his team to be creative and innovative and is reflected in these 5 core practices.


Effective leaders, synergises motivation, power and his traits as seen in figure 3 and the example of outcome as reflected in figure 5.

After 2 decades managing teams in the security industry across Asia Pacific, I come to see how it has always been structured and process driven. The fixed processes and procedures made me a transactional leader. On the other hand, when it comes to security strategies such as training programmes or electronic security installations, transactional leadership kicks in to motivate and extract the best ideas from the team.

Hence, I reflect upon myself that effective leadership cannot be stifled to just one idiosyncrasy such as transactional or transformational to impact an individual’s motivation in the workforce.  Leaders must also be versatile to apply the correct leadership traits to achieve the objectives of the organisation or situation to motivate people. More importantly, no amount of leadership style is relevant if the basics of motivation are not addressed. Transformational leadership as I have seen in my industry, is not something can be applied during a crisis or time constrained objectives.


Brian, T. (2014) Leadership. NY: Amacom.

Conger, J. & Kanungo, R. (1994) Charismatic Leadership in Organizations. Journal of Organisational Behavior, Volume 15, pp. 439-452.

Eamon , B. (2020) Fortune: CEO Anthony Tan says Grab is partnering with Microsoft to reskill drivers. [Online]
Available at: <https://fortune.com/2020/10/27/grab-microsoft-reskill-drivers-singapore/&gt;
[Accessed 18 April 2021].

Evans, M. (1970) Leadership and Motivation: A Core Concept. The Academy of Management Journal, 13(1), pp. 91-102.

Jeanette, T. (2021) The philosophies of Sheng Siong CEO Lim Hock Chee: Lead from the heart, find the right people & share wealth freely. [Online]
Available at: < https://mothership.sg/2021/03/lessons-on-leadership-lim-hock-chee-sheng-siong-interview/&gt;
[Accessed 12 April 2021 2021].

Jim, K. & Barry, P. (2012) The Leadership Challenge. 5 ed. New York: Wiley.

Kunert, K. & Lewis, P. (1987) Transactional and Transformational Leadership. Academy of Management, 12(4), pp. 648-657.

Lunenberg, F. (2012) Power and Leadership. International Journal of Management, Business and administration, 15(1).

Milad, H. (2021) Grab CEO goes bald for children with cancer, raises over RM600,000, Kuala Lumpur: Malay Mail.

Pierr, P. (2015) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs : Gain Vital Insights into How to Motivate People. Brussels: Lemaitre.

13 thoughts on “Leaders and Motivation

  1. Thanks for great sharing Joe. Strongly agree that we could’t define any leadership is right or wrong, but leaders should apply the suitable leadership traits to motivate people to achieve the objectives of the organisation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A good theoretical expose. I like how you first start off with different theoretical approach and put in examples in the middle. May I ask what is the downside of those theories which you have mentioned? does motivational alone actually drive followers to these leaders? Could it be possible that attractions may play a part or that meeting of the same minds? I don’t know about that either but i would be interested to know your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Motivation theories have many advantages but as it is a theory – its never black and white, or one size fits all. Therefore, leaders really should not stick to one belief but adapt to each individual’s motivation in his team. Motivation alone cannot drive the follower to the leaders but the pull-factor that the leaders have can drive the actions of the follower. For example, Jon Bon Jovi dresses up like a mat rocker- I’d follow that.


  3. I really like your blog! Specifically the example of exemplary leadership and a point to challenge the status quo. I find that we are driven much by process – and that CV-19 has interrupted that pattern to force us to pivot and create a new way forward. Isnt it always a balance between transactional and transformational leadership? Id like your thoughts on charismatic leaders and narcissistic behaviours – wonder if the 2 actually go hand in hand on some level..!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my research, I find that charismatic leaders can also lead on to narcissistic behaviours which is a personality disorder. Charismatic leaders can also be dangerous if they lead their followers to go to the “dark side”. Of course, we know about Adolf Hitler but in the current context. I am actually worried about the likes of Jack Ma, Elon Musk and etc. These charismatic leaders can actually motivate people into performing acts that may be detrimental to society. For instance, I stil do not agree cryptocurrency will be the future of money or banks operating like pawn shops.


  4. great article, jam-packed with relevant theories. An interesting example for grab, great to hear them promoting creativity. Thank you for the article love the way it is presented.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. thought this blog was detailed. any idea how we can balance transformational and transactional leadership? Is this merely 50/50?i agree with you following just either or would be considered out of touch so a big extend. what’s your thought on that?


    1. The application is really situational. in a situation when there is a surge of covid cases, I dont see Singapore leadership will rely on a laissez-faire leadership style or attempt to motivate the public through self-motivated programmes. The wise way is to go is transactional and decisive on the solutions after collectively brainstorming the best course of action.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great article, as always!

    100% agree with you on the idea of leadership style not having a clear cut right or wrong answer, but it is the leader’s inherent responsibility to sensibly exercise versatility in defining objectives, exceeding standards, and sparking direct/indirect motivation.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog posts, Joe!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great example relating motivation theories with SS example, and the Transformational leadership with Grab (and the exemplary leadership). I agree with Joe’s reflection on no leadership style is either right or wrong. I guess the important part is that leaders should be agile, flexible, and adaptable enough to apply which leadership style is appropriate for any given situation. Great article, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love reading your blog! I too agree that there is no one fixed leadership style for every employee in an organisation. Leaders should adapt to the environment both macro and micro for the best interests of the organisation. With the recent of Grab merger with SPAC Altimeter Growth Corp, it would be interesting to see the leadership evolve!


  9. I think every leadership style has its own benefits and how it is applied depends on the target audience per se. Good call out on multiple factors that influence the different styles.


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