As we near the end of the semester and the end of our Legacy Project journey, I want share with you some thoughts on motivation and motivational leadership. So much of the last leg of any semester, but especially this one for our graduating seniors (and my capstone/last semester-bound self), is about staying motivated and finishing strong. Once spring break hits, all bets are off, and it’s all about finding what will keep you moving.
The American Management Association has a great article about motivational leadership. Their article states that, “One key characteristic of leaders is that they set high standards of accountability for themselves and for their behaviors.” I think this is especially key in our Legacy Project and has been so far, as the different leaders of each branch of the project work to stay motivated themselves and thus to set a high standard of work and timeliness for the rest of the group. However, no matter how good an example a leader tries to set, there will inevitably be setbacks in any project or situation. The key at this point is how you deal with them.
Motivational leading has at its core five key principles:
1. Vision: According to the article, this is the key principle separating motivational leaders from followers. They say that the best motivation you can have for yourself and your team members is “Be your best!” We cannot simply accept what is better than others, or try to create a website that was “better” than the last one. Rather, we must strive to be the best in our respective groups and to create the best product available.
2. Integrity: The American Management Association describes this as “complete, unflinching honesty,” and ties this back into doing your best. This means when someone asks at the end of the day or the end of the project, “Did you try your hardest?” you will honestly be able to answer them yes or no, without being ashamed of either answer. Truth and communication are key in this principle.
3. Courage: I think it’s safe to say a lot of the effort in the last leg of a semester and in the last stretch of the Legacy Project is the courage to forge onward, despite setbacks or frustrations. This means resisting the urge to “get going by going along,” and adhering to your principles to maintain your integrity. So many of these principles are intertwined, but I personally think courage is at the heart of each of them.
4. Realism: The American Management Association says realism is “a form of intellectual honesty.” This has also been a key factor in the Legacy Project and I know as I organize my final days of the semester, for me as well. You have to be realistic about what you can get done in the amount of time you have, and sometimes this involves sacrificing time in one arena in favor of getting something done in another.
5. Responsibility: They say this is the hardest principle to “obey,” and I am inclined to agree. This involves taking full responsibility for your actions, including what you got done and what you were not able to get done. Sometimes, for me, responsibility is all that motivates me at the end of a semester!
The combination of all these principles allows us to remember what is most important. It is not just a matter of getting it all done, but getting it done with your best effort and being able to say, at the end of the day, that you gave it your full and most honest, courageous effort.
I pose the following questions to everyone: what keeps you motivated in the last stretch of a project or a semester? Is it the end goal? Or is it just the desire to get it done?