Three Keys To Leading Inspired Performance: Igniting The Fire Within

Ignite-your-passion 711 x 400

In an earlier post, Why WD-40 Works Better Than Performance Management I shared with you the concept of Performance Leadership, and gave you the first steps for helping people get an ‘A’.

In this article I’ll share with you the next steps, combining a brilliant model dubbed Motivation 3.0, developed by best-selling author Daniel Pink.



The Holy Grail of the Performance Leader
According to Pink, engaging peoples’ passion, commitment and energy, centres around three factors:

  • Autonomy: desire to be self directed (self leadership)
  • Mastery: desire to develop a high degree of skill in something important
  • Purpose: the yearning to make a meaningful contribution in the service of something larger than ourselves

Pink is right – but he’s also wrong. Autonomy Mastery, and Purpose don’t lead only to motivation – done right, they lead to inspiration. What’s the difference?

Motivation is transactional
and psychological.
Inspiration is transformational
and spiritual.

Motivation 101
Motivation is a popular management tool. It’s psychological and transactional. It’s incentive and reward based. The problem is that it recognises only our lower nature – that we are motivated by pain and pleasure – and seeks to exploit this for its own gain. That’s why the carrot and stick is a staple of the management play book.


What’s not recognised is that this leaves our powerful higher nature out of the equation. This in turn causes a vicious cycle, since this is the only game in town, it leads the manager to look for new and creative ways to manipulate people into compliance. Commitment is not even part of the equation.

Motivation gets you moving
– it pushes you towards or away from something. It seeks compliance.


You simply cannot take commitment from people. They can only give you their commitment. Doing something because you’ve been asked to or forced to, is not commitment – it’s compliance. This is a big flaw in Performance Management. There is literally no commitment in it.

Motivation is transactional by nature,
and is achieved via enforcing
a psychological contract.


Often in work settings, we’re asked to make ‘commitments’ at the request of the manager or organisation. But people don’t get inspired about someone else’s goals unless they make them their own. And why would they do that?

If the goals don’t align with what’s most important to the person, you won’t get  inspiration but you may get motivation – if not simply to keep the job. But how inspiring this that really?


Inspiration 101
Inspiration is spiritual and meaningful by nature. It’s transformational and valuable for its own sake. It is its own reward. With inspiration you don’t give to get in return. You do it because you’re called from deep within to express your inner voice through your actions, your inventiveness, and your creativity.

Inspiration needs no contract.
Its nature is commitment.


Inspiration evokes self-expression. With inspiration, every act becomes an act of self-definition. Every creation becomes an expression of who you really are. With each act you make a statement: “this is who I am; this is what I’m about.”

With inspiration, every act becomes an act
of self-definition. Every creation becomes an expression of who you really are.


Performance Leadership Using The Three Keys
Only true leadership can influence inspired performance. Performance leaders understand this, and engage people in a rich conversation about their aspirations, their passions, and their uniqueness.

Performance Leaders know that
commitment can only be volunteered.


Performance leaders don’t often ‘make you’ do anything. Instead they create conditions that empower your unique strengths, abilities and passions to flourish in service of something larger. Inspired performance ensues.

Leadership is more heart than science.


The performance leader knows that firing up people’s hearts and minds is a natural outcome of people expressing themselves through work which meets their four human needs. [i]

This is where Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose come in.


6 Steps To Releasing Human Potential For Higher Performance

  1. Help your people identify their strengths and connect with them. [ii]
  2. Establish Purpose. Discuss meaningful ways in which your people are keen to apply their strengths in service of something larger than themselves, and set some tangible outcomes.
  3. Explore their thoughts about the skills which they are passionate about developing, to a level of Mastery.
  4. Explore what’s meaningful for them, and what would inspire them to pour their energy into it.

    Performance starts with clarity.
    Simply talking about what gets
    a person going is inspiring.

  5. Autonomy is the capstone. Once you’ve jointly clarified the future vision, established their buy-in, and set them up for success, encourage them to direct their own life in pursuit of their highest aspirations.
  6. Along the journey provide direction and support as required. Encourage learning and growth. Encourage them to stretch outside of their comfort zones, and become stewards of their destiny, and leaders in their own right.

Have you ever seen a person’s face light up when they talk about their passion?
Have more of these conversations at work and watch engagement numbers soar.

After one of these conversations people will be more inclined to seek out solutions to make it happen. They’ll start leading themselves toward higher performance. Inspiration is like nuclear-powered motivation.

Ask yourself, once you’re clear what it is you
really want, aren’t you highly charged to go
for it as quickly as you can?


I’ve only here scratched the surface of what Motivation 3.0 can do for you. We’ll delve into that in a later article. For now what we’ve covered will more than suffice to get you through phase two of becoming a high performance leader.

Go Forth Now, And Lead High Performance
At the risk of stating the obvious, you won’t raise performance by simply having this knowledge. Only by applying these three keys as you lead your people will they move to higher performance. Start by discussing this article with them.

Notes & Links:
[i] Stephen R. Covey taught that we have four human needs (physical, mental, social, and spiritual) which affect our behaviour, our attitude, our decisions and our focus. Meeting these four human needs sets us up to perform to the best of our ability. Covey called this ‘The Fire Within’.
[ii] Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment There are many great tools on the market today, such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder, which I can highly recommend from personal experience.


Craig D’Souza is the founder and CEO of Perth based consultancy Business Velocity, which assists organisations, teams, and individuals to achieve peak performance at work and in their lives.

Previous Posts:
1. Believe It. Real And Permanent Behaviour Change Is Truely Possible For You.
2. Why WD-40 Works Better Than Performance Management
3. 10 Things That Great Listeners Don’t Do and What You Can Do About It