Seven Differences Between Motivating and Manipulating

Some have articulated that leaders need to motivate employees differently because of the infusion of millennials into the workforce. But that is only true if a leader has relied primarily on extrinsic motivation—on putting carrots or rewards in front of followers. Carrots work less and less because millennials are more intrinsically motivated than preceding generations. They are more likely to want to work for the work itself because they believe in the project or the initiative, because it aligns with their values, and because they find the work itself to be satisfying.

Great leaders—leaders who lead with clarity of mission and values, who rally people around a shared purpose, and who work to help people find joy in the work—are well-prepared to motivate the new type of employee (assuming there really is a new type of employee, because the best ones have always been intrinsically motivated anyway). Great leaders motivate with the strength of their character and commitment, by uniting people around shared values, and by pointing people to the mission that drives all the activity.

When leaders who once motivated extrinsically, who once offered carrots and rewards, but now attempt to motivate intrinsically, the result can often be manipulation. And the reason is that their intrinsic motivation is insincere. They are doing so only because extrinsic motivation is working less, not because they actually possess strong convictions and care for people.

Motivation is very, very different from manipulation. Here are seven differences between motivation and manipulation.

  1. Motivation cares about the work and the person. Manipulation only cares about the work.
  1. Motivation is fueled by love. Manipulation is fueled by pride.
  1. Motivation is grounded in substance. Manipulation is grounded in style.
  1. Motivation empowers people. Manipulation controls people.
  1. Motivation values people. Manipulation devalues people.
  1. Motivation is great leadership. Manipulation is evil leadership.
  1. Motivation fosters loyalty. Manipulation fosters resentment.

Leaders are wise to check themselves continually, to look deeply at their leadership, to ensure they are really motivating and not manipulating. If you are guilty of manipulating, of attempting to control people or of not really caring for those you lead, you aren’t really leading.