Theory of Human Motivation

In his 1960 management book, The Human Side of Enterprise, Douglas McGregor made his mark on the history of organizational management and motivational psychology when he proposed the two theories by which managers perceive employee motivation. He referred to these opposing motivational methods as Theory X and Theory Y management. Each assumes that the manager’s role is to organize resources, including people, to best benefit the company. However, beyond this commonality, they’re quite dissimilar.

Theory X Management

According to McGregor, Theory X leadership assumes the following:

  • Work is inherently distasteful to most people, and they will attempt to avoid work whenever possible.
  • Most people are not ambitious, have little desire for responsibility, and prefer to be directed.
  • Most people have little aptitude for creativity in solving organizational problems.
  • Motivation occurs only at the physiological and security levels of Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy.
  • Most people are self-centered. As a result, they must be closely controlled and often coerced to achieve organizational objectives
  • Most people resist change.
  • Most people are gullible and unintelligent.

Essentially, theory x assumes that the primary source of most employee motivation is monetary, with security as a strong second.

The Hard Approach and Soft Approach

Under Theory X, management approaches to motivation range from a hard approach to a soft approach.

The hard approach to motivation relies on coercion, implicit threats, micromanagement, and tight controls — essentially an environment of command and control. The soft approach, however, is to be permissive and seek harmony in the hopes that, in return, employees will cooperate when asked. However, neither of these extremes is optimal. The hard approach results in hostility, purposely low-output, and extreme union demands. The soft approach results in increasing desire for greater reward in exchange for diminishing work output.

It would appear that the optimal approach to human resource management would be lie somewhere between these extremes. However, McGregor asserts that neither approach is appropriate since the foundations of theory x are incorrect.

The Problem with X Theory

Drawing on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, McGregor argues that a need, once satisfied, no longer motivates. The company relies on monetary rewards and benefits to satisfy employees’ lower level needs. Once those needs have been satisfied, the motivation is gone. This management style, in fact, hinders the satisfaction of higher-level needs. Consequently, the only way that employees can attempt to satisfy higher level needs at work is to seek more compensation, so it is quite predictable that they will focus on monetary rewards. While money may not be the most effective way to self-fulfillment, it may be the only way available. People will use work to satisfy their lower needs, and seek to satisfy their higher needs during their leisure time. Unfortunately, employees can be most productive when their work goals align with their higher level needs.

McGregor makes the point that a command and control environment is not effective because it relies on lower needs for motivation, but in modern society those needs are mostly satisfied and thus no longer motivate. In this situation, one would expect employees to dislike their work, avoid responsibility, have no interest in organizational goals, resist change, etc., thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. To McGregor, motivation seemed more likely with the Theory Y model.

Theory Y

The higher-level needs of esteem and self-actualization are continuing needs in that they are never completely satisfied. As such, it is these higher-level needs through which employees can best be motivated.

In strong contrast to Theory X, Theory Y leadership makes the following general assumptions:

  • Work can be as natural as play if the conditions are favorable.
  • People will be self-directed and creative to meet their work and organizational objectives if they are committed to them.
  • People will be committed to their quality and productivity objectives if rewards are in place that address higher needs such as self-fulfillment.
  • The capacity for creativity spreads throughout organizations.
  • Most people can handle responsibility because creativity and ingenuity are common in the population.
  • Under these conditions, people will seek responsibility.

Under these assumptions, there is an opportunity to align personal goals with organizational goals by using the employee’s own need for fulfillment as the motivator. McGregor stressed that Theory Y management does not imply a soft approach.

McGregor recognized that some people may not have reached the level of maturity assumed by Theory Y and therefore may need tighter controls that can be relaxed as the employee develops.

XY Theory Management Application – Business Implications for Workforce Motivation

If Theory Y holds true, an organization can apply these principles of scientific management to improve employee motivation:

  • Decentralization and Delegation – If firms decentralize control and reduce the number of levels of management, managers will have more subordinates and consequently will be forced to delegate some responsibility and decision making to them.
  • Job Enlargement – Broadening the scope of an employee’s job adds variety and opportunities to satisfy ego needs.
  • Participative Management – Consulting employees in the decision making process taps their creative capacity and provides them with some control over their work environment.
  • Performance Appraisals – Having the employee set objectives and participate in the process of evaluating how well they were met.

If properly implemented, such an environment would result in a high level of workforce motivation as employees work to satisfy their higher level personal needs through their jobs.

In 1943, Dr. Abraham Maslow ‘s article “A Theory of Human Motivation ” appeared in Psychological Review, which were further expanded upon in his book: Toward a Psychology of Being  In this article, Abraham H. Maslow attempted to formulate a needs-based framework of human motivation and based upon his clinical experiences with people, rather than as did the prior psychology theories of his day from authors such as Freud and B.F. Skinner, which were largely theoretical or based upon animal behavior.  From this theory of motivation, modern leaders and executive managers find means of motivation for the purposes of employee and workforce management. Abraham Maslow’s book Motivation and Personality (1954), formally introduced the Hierarchy of Needs.

Related Articles
  • Alderfer’s ERG Theory
  • Herzberg’s Motivation Theory
  • First, Break the Golden Rule

The basis of Maslow’s motivation theory is that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower factors need to be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied. According to Maslow, there are general types of needs (physiological, survival, safety, love, and esteem) that must be satisfied before a person can act unselfishly. He called these needs “deficiency needs.” As long as we are motivated to satisfy these cravings, we are moving towards growth, toward self-actualization. Satisfying needs is healthy, while preventing gratification makes us sick or act evilly.

As a result, for adequate workplace motivation, it is important that leadership understands the active needs active for individual employee motivation. In this manner, Maslow’s model indicates that fundamental, lower-order needs like safety and physiological requirements have to be satisfied in order to pursue higher-level motivators along the lines of self-fulfillment. As depicted in the following hierarchical diagram, sometimes called ‘Maslow’s Needs Pyramid’ or ‘Maslow’s Needs Triangle’, after a need is satisfied it stops acting as a motivator and the next need one rank higher starts to motivate.



Esteem Needs


Social Needs


Safety Needs


Physiological Needs



Self-actualization is the summit of Maslow’s motivation theory. It is about the quest of reaching one’s full potential as a person. Unlike lower level needs, this need is never fully satisfied; as one grows psychologically there are always new opportunities to continue to grow.

Self-actualized people tend to have motivators such as:

  • Truth
  • Justice
  • Wisdom
  • Meaning

Self-actualized persons have frequent occurrences of peak experiences, which are energized moments of profound happiness and harmony. According to Maslow, only a small percentage of the population reaches the level of self-actualization.

Esteem Needs

After a person feels that they “belong”, the urge to attain a degree of importance emerges. Esteem needs can be categorized as external motivators and internal motivators.

Internally motivating esteem needs are those such as self-esteem, accomplishment, and self respect.  External esteem needs are those such as reputation and recognition.

Some examples of esteem needs are:

  • Recognition (external motivator)
  • Attention (external motivator)
  • Social Status (external motivator)
  • Accomplishment (internal motivator)
  • Self-respect (internal motivator)

Maslow later improved his model to add a layer in between self-actualization and esteem needs: the need for aesthetics and knowledge.

Social Needs

Once a person has met the lower level physiological and safety needs, higher level motivators awaken. The first level of higher level needs are social needs. Social needs are those related to interaction with others and may include:

  • Friendship
  • Belonging to a group
  • Giving and receiving love

Safety Needs

Once physiological needs are met, one’s attention turns to safety and security in order to be free from the threat of physical and emotional harm. Such needs might be fulfilled by:

  • Living in a safe area
  • Medical insurance
  • Job security
  • Financial reserves

According to the Maslow hierarchy, if a person feels threatened, needs further up the pyramid will not receive attention until that need has been resolved.

Physiological Needs

Physiological needs are those required to sustain life, such as:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Food
  • Sleep

According to this theory, if these fundamental needs are not satisfied then one will surely be motivated to satisfy them. Higher needs such as social needs and esteem are not recognized until one satisfies the needs basic to existence.

Applying Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy – Business Management Implications

If Maslow’s theory is true, there are some very important leadership implications to enhance workplace motivation. There are staff motivation opportunities by motivating each employee through their style of management, compensation plans, role definition, and company activities.

  • Physiological Motivation: Provide ample breaks for lunch and recuperation and pay salaries that allow workers to buy life’s essentials.
  • Safety Needs: Provide a working environment which is safe, relative job security, and freedom from threats.
  • Social Needs: Generate a feeling of acceptance, belonging, and community by reinforcing team dynamics.
  • Esteem Motivators: Recognize achievements, assign important projects, and provide status to make employees feel valued and appreciated.
  • Self-Actualization: Offer challenging and meaningful work assignments which enable innovation, creativity, and progress according to long-term goals.

Remember, everyone is not motivated by same needs.  At various points in their lives and careers, various employees will be motivated by completely different needs. It is imperative that you recognize each employee’s needs currently being pursued. In order to motivate their employees, leadership must be understand the current level of needs at which the employee finds themselves, and leverage needs for workplace motivation.

Maslow’s Theory – Limitations and Criticism

Though Maslow’s hierarchy makes sense intuitively, little evidence supports its strict hierarchy. Actually, recent research challenges the order that the needs are imposed by Maslow’s pyramid. As an example, in some cultures, social needs are placed more fundamentally than any others. Further, Maslow’s hierarchy fails to explain the “starving artist” scenario, in which the aesthetic neglects their physical needs to pursuit of aesthetic or spiritual goals. Additionally, little evidence suggests that people satisfy exclusively one motivating need at a time, other than situations where needs conflict.

While scientific support fails to reinforce Maslow’s hierarchy, his thery is very popular, being the introductory motivation theory for many students and managers, worldwide. To handle a number of the issues of present in the Needs Hierarchy, Clayton Alderfer devised the ERG theory, a consistent needs-based model that aligns more accurately with scientific research. > Wiki Answers > Categories > Health > What is the concept of nature vs nurture?

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 What is the concept of nature vs nurture?

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Psychologists don’t know why people grow up to have the personalities they do. Some argue nurture, which is saying that a child’s personality will form based on how they were raised and their experiences in life. Nature is the theory that each person will grow up to have their same personality no matter what situations they’re put in.

It’s like when someone asks you what you think they’d be like if they grew up in another time/place. If you thought that they would think the same way, have the same opinions, etc. (and just dress and maybe talk a little differently), then you would believe the nature theory. If you thought that it wouldn’t even really be them and that they would be a different person entirely, then you would argue nurture.

By the way, most psychologists have their beliefs somewhere inbetween these two.

I hope this has helped you. 😀

Is It An External Factor or Does Motivation Come Only From Within?….

Motivation is believed to be a process of the heart; to be able to find it inside yourself to move ahead with a belief in something bigger than your are. It is possible for most human beings to be motivated, but not necessarily be able to motivate themselves.

If we ask the question, does motivation come only from within or not; we have to envision what it takes for someone to personally succeed in life? There are so many aspects to motivation. In most instances, motivation is a personal decision. It requires focus and determination. There is no room for succumbing to negative behaviors or thoughts. Success is a determinant in the idea of conceding to the fact of how a person becomes motivated.

Well the question, “does motivation come only from within or not; would seem to be the likely answer to this evasive concern. It is apparent in the example of an athlete. Even though an athlete trains for a sport event, he or she has to dig deep within to stay in the game. Training can get very difficult and sometimes discouraging because of the rigorous schedules and hard work involved.

One quality to come to a decision about the answer to the question, “does motivation come only from within or not; is inspiration. Someone else that you want to emulate can inspire you. If it is possible to familiarize yourself with what inspired that person to succeed, then you can make attempts to see if this is the kind of inspiration you need to adopt for staying motivated.

Looking From Within

Motivation first starts with the reason why you are embarking on something. So to find that answer, you have to look from within. The next step is to set goals to accomplish the task ahead. This also requires you to do some thinking and the thinking process does need a look from within.

You have to be true to yourself and finding truth involve that you look from inside so that you can evaluate the question, “does motivation come from within.” Whether you are ready to face what you discover from your evaluation will determine if you believe that the question, “does motivation come from within,” is not necessarily a way to force you into a decision. It is geared to make you think about motivation and how it affects your mindset into the agreement that you do have to look from within to find answers to your desire for motivation.

Since the process of evaluation has allowed us to see the answer to the question, “does motivation come from within,” we now realize that the thought process and the resolve to accomplish is the key to keeping us motivated.

Theories of Motivation


At a simple level, it seems obvious that people do things, such as go to work, in order to get stuff they want and to avoid stuff they don’t want.

Why exactly they want what they do and don’t want what they don’t is still something a mystery. It’s a black box and it hasn’t been fully penetrated.

Overall, the basic perspective on motivation looks something like this:

In other words, you have certain needs or wants (these terms will be used interchangeably), and this causes you to do certain things (behavior), which satisfy those needs (satisfaction), and this can then change which needs/wants are primary (either intensifying certain ones, or allowing you to move on to other ones).

A variation on this model, particularly appropriate from an experimenter’s or manager’s point of view, would be to add a box labeled “reward” between “behavior” and “satisfaction”. So that subjects (or employees), who have certain needs do certain things (behavior), which then get them rewards set up by the experimenter or manager (such as raises or bonuses), which satisfy the needs, and so on.

Classifying Needs

People seem to have different wants. This is fortunate, because in markets this creates the very desirable situation where, because you value stuff that I have but you don’t, and I value stuff that you have that I don’t, we can trade in such a way that we are both happier as a result.

But it also means we need to try to get a handle on the whole variety of needs and who has them in order to begin to understand how to design organizations that maximize productivity.

Part of what a theory of motivation tries to do is explain and predict who has which wants. This turns out to be exceedingly difficult.

Many theories posit a hierarchy of needs, in which the needs at the bottom are the most urgent and need to be satisfied before attention can be paid to the others.


Maslow’s hierarchy of need categories is the most famous example: 


Specific examples of these types are given below, in both the work and home context. (Some of the instances, like “education” are actually satisfiers of the need.)

self-actualizationeducation, religion, hobbies, personal growthtraining, advancement, growth, creativity
esteemapproval of family, friends, communityrecognition, high status, responsibilities
belongingnessfamily, friends, clubsteams, depts, coworkers, clients, supervisors, subordinates
safetyfreedom from war, poison, violencework safety, job security, health insurance
physiologicalfood water sexHeat, air, base salary

According to Maslow, lower needs take priority. They must be fulfilled before the others are activated. There is some basic common sense here — it’s pointless to worry about whether a given color looks good on you when you are dying of starvation, or being threatened with your life. There are some basic things that take precedence over all else.

Or at least logically should, if people were rational. But is that a safe assumption? According to the theory, if you are hungry and have inadequate shelter, you won’t go to church. Can’t do the higher things until you have the lower things. But the poor tend to be more religious than the rich. Both within a given culture, and across nations. So the theory makes the wrong prediction here.

Or take education: how often do you hear “I can’t go to class today, I haven’t had sex in three days!”?  Do all physiological needs including sex have to be satisfied before “higher” needs?  (Besides, wouldn’t the authors of the Kama Sutra argue that sex was a kind of self-expression more like art than a physiological need? that would put it in the self-actualization box). Again, the theory doesn’t seem to predict correctly.

Cultural critique: Does Maslow’s classification really reflect the order in which needs are satisfied, or is it more about classifying needs from a kind of “tastefulness” perspective, with lofty goals like personal growth and creativity at the top, and “base” instincts like sex and hunger at the bottom? And is self-actualization actually a fundamental need? Or just something that can be done if you have the leisure time?

Alderfer’s ERG theory

Alderfer classifies needs into three categories, also ordered hierarchically:

  • growth needs (development of competence and realization of potential)
  • relatedness needs (satisfactory relations with others)
  • existence needs (physical well-being)

This is very similar to Maslow — can be seen as just collapsing into three tiers. But maybe a bit more rational. For example, in Alderfer’s model, sex does not need to be in the bottom category as it is in Maslow’s model, since it is not crucial to (the individual’s) existence. (Remember, this about individual motivation, not species’ survival.) So by moving sex, this theory does not predict that people have to have sex before they can think about going to school, like Maslow’s theory does.

Alderfer believed that as you start satisfying higher needs, they become more intense (e.g., the power you get the more you want power), like an addiction.

Do any of these theories have anything useful to say for managing businesses? Well, if true, they suggest that

  • Not everyone is motivated by the same things. It depends where you are in the hierarchy (think of it as a kind of personal development scale)
  • The needs hierarchy probably mirrors the organizational hierarchy to a certain extent: top managers are more likely to motivated by self-actualization/growth needs than existence needs. (but try telling Bill Clinton that top executives are not motivated by sex and cheeseburgers…)

Acquired Needs Theory (mcclellan)

Some needs are acquired as a result of life experiences

  • need for achievement, accomplish something difficult. as kids encouraged to do things for themselves.
  • need for affiliation, form close personal relationships. as kids rewarded for making friends.
  • need for power, control others. as kids, able to get what they want through controlling others.

Again similar to maslow and alderfer.

These needs can be measured using the TAT (thematic apperception test), which is a projection-style test based on interpreting stories that people tell about a set of pictures.

Cognitive Evaluation Theory

This theory suggests that there are actually two motivation systems: intrinsic and extrinsic that correspond to two kinds of motivators:

  • intrinsic motivators:  Achievement, responsibility and competence. motivators that come from the actual performance of the task or job — the intrinsic interest of the work.
  • extrinsic:  pay, promotion, feedback, working conditions — things that come from a person’s environment, controlled by others.

One or the other of these may be a more powerful motivator for a given individual.

Intrinsically motivated individuals perform for their own achievement and satisfaction. If they come to believe that they are doing some job because of the pay or the working conditions or some other extrinsic reason, they begin to lose motivation.

The belief is that the presence of powerful extrinsic motivators can actually reduce a person’s intrinsic motivation, particularly if the extrinsic motivators are perceived by the person to be controlled by people. In other words, a boss who is always dangling this reward or that stick will turn off the intrinsically motivated people.

Note that the intrinsic motivators tend to be higher on the Maslow hierarchy.

Two Factor theory (Herzberg)

According to Herzberg, two kinds of factors affect motivation, and they do it in different ways:

  • hygiene factors. These are factors whose absence motivates, but whose presence has no perceived effect. They are things that when you take them away, people become dissatisfied and act to get them back. A very good example is heroin to a heroin addict. Long term addicts do not shoot up to get high; they shoot up to stop being sick — to get normal.  Other examples include decent working conditions, security, pay, benefits (like health insurance), company policies, interpersonal relationships. In general, these are extrinsic items low in the Maslow/Alderfer hierarchy.
  • motivators. These are factors whose presence motivates. Their absence does not cause any particular dissatisfaction, it just fails to motivate. Examples are all the things at the top of the Maslow hierarchy, and the intrinsic motivators.

So hygiene factors determine dissatisfaction, and motivators determine satisfaction. The two scales are independent, and you can be high on both.

If you think back to the class discussion on power, we talked about a baseline point on the well-being scale. Power involved a threat to reduce your well-being, causing dissatisfaction. Hence, power basically works by threatening to withhold hygiene factors. Influence was said to fundamentally be about promising improvements in well-being — when you are influenced to do something, it is because you want to, not because you were threatened. Influence basically works by offering to provide motivators (in Herzberg’s terms).

Equity Theory

Suppose employee A gets a 20% raise and employee B gets a 10% raise. Will both be motivated as a result? Will  A be twice as motivated? Will be B be negatively motivated?

Equity theory says that it is not the actual reward that motivates, but the perception, and the perception is based not on the reward in isolation, but in comparison with the efforts that went into getting it, and the rewards and efforts of others. If everyone got a 5% raise, B is likely to feel quite pleased with her raise, even if she worked harder than everyone else. But if A got an even higher raise, B perceives that she worked just as hard as A, she will be unhappy.

In other words, people’s motivation results from a ratio of ratios:  a person compares the ratio of reward to effort with the comparable ratio of reward to effort that they think others are getting.

Of course, in terms of actually predicting how a person will react to a given motivator, this will get pretty complicated:

  1. People do not have complete information about how others are rewarded. So they are going on perceptions, rumors, inferences.
  2. Some people are more sensitive to equity issues than others
  3. Some people are willing to ignore short-term inequities as long as they expect things to work out in the long-term.

Reinforcement Theory

Operant Conditioning is the term used by B.F. Skinner to describe the effects of the consequences of a particular behavior on the future occurrence of that behavior. There are four types of Operant Conditioning: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Punishment, and Extinction. Both Positive and Negative Reinforcement strengthen behavior while both Punishment and Extinction weaken behavior.

  • Positive reinforcement.  Strengthening a behavior. This is the process of getting goodies as a consequence of a behavior. You make a sale, you get a commission. You do a good job, you get a bonus & a promotion.
  • Negative reinforcement. Strengthening a behavior. This is the process of having a stressor taken away as a  consequence of a behavior. Long-term sanctions are removed from countries when their human rights records improve. (you see how successful that is!). Low status as geek at Salomon Brothers is removed when you make first big sale.
  • Extinction. Weakening a behavior. This is the process of getting no goodies when do a behavior. So if person does extra effort, but gets no thanks for it, they stop doing it.
  • Punishment. Weakening a behavior. This is the process of getting a punishment as a consequence of a behavior. Example: having your pay docked for lateness.
Rewardpositive reinforcement (raise above baseline)negative reinforcement (raise up to baseline)
Stressorpunishment (bring down below baseline)extinction (stay at baseline)

Reinforcement schedules.

The traditional reinforcement schedule is called a continuous reinforcement schedule. Each time the correct behavior is performed it gets reinforced.

Then there is what we call an intermittent reinforcement schedule. There are fixed and variable categories.

The Fixed Interval Schedule is where reinforcement is only given after a certain amount of time has elapsed. So, if you decided on a 5 second interval then each reinforcement would occur at the fixed time of every 5 seconds.

The Fixed Ratio Schedule is where the reinforcement is given only after a predetermined number of responses. This is often seen in behavior chains where a number of behaviors have to occur for reinforcement to occur.

The Variable Interval Schedule is where the reinforcement is given after varying amounts of time between each reinforcement.

The Variable Ratio Schedule is where the reinforcement is given after a varying number of correct responses.

Fluctuating combinations of primary and secondary reinforcers fall under other terms in the variable ratio schedule; For example, Reinforcers delivered Intermittently in a Randomized Order (RIR) or Variable Ratio with Reinforcement Variety (VRRV).

Intervalgive reward after first proper response following a specified time period

(yearly raise)

[short term]

give reward after a certain amt of time w/ the amt changing before the next reward

(unexpected bonus based on merit)

[medium term]

Ratiopunishment (subtract from baseline)

(commissions or piecework pay)

[medium term]

give reward after a number of responses, w/ that no. changing before the next reward

(team-based bonus)

[long term]

 Expectancy Theory (Vroom)

This theory is meant to bring together many of the elements of previous theories. It combines the perceptual aspects of equity theory with the behavioral aspects of the other theories. Basically, it comes down to this “equation”:

M = E*I*V


motivation = expectancy * instrumentality * valence

M (motivation) is the amount a person will be motivated by the situation they find themselves in. It is a function of the following.

E (expectancy) = The person’s perception that effort will result in performance. In other words, the person’s assessment of the degree to which effort actually correlates with performance.

I (instrumentality) = The person’s perception that performance will be rewarded/punished. I.e., the person’s assessment of how well the amount of reward correlates with the quality of performance. (Note here that the model is phrased in terms of extrinsic motivation, in that it asks ‘what are the chances I’m going to get rewarded if I do good job?’. But for intrinsic situations, we can think of this as asking ‘how good will I feel if I can pull this off?’).

V(valence) = The perceived strength of the reward or punishment that will result from the performance. If the reward is small, the motivation will be small, even if expectancy and instrumentality are both perfect (high).

Motivation, Thinking Skills, and Classroom Climate

Research, beginning in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, has shown that teachers’ classroom interactions, including instructional/assessment practices, not only directly affect students’ development of understanding but also classroom climate, student motivation, and thinking skills, which, in turn, also influence students’ learning and their dispositions to learn as well.  This is an illustration of the processes that occur in every classroom – math, social studies, visual art, music, etc., and with new, veteran, great, and emerging teachers.

Motivation has several shadings, but for this article the categories of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are sufficient.  Extrinsic motivation is the result of conditions outside the person, while intrinsic motivation is an outgrowth of internal needs or desires related to the task itself.  Students’ motivations are influenced by two aspects of the teacher’s interaction: 1) the nature of the learning tasks; and 2) the instructional/assessment strategies based on certain inborn traits common to all of us.

Learning Tasks

Learning tasks are a significant source of motivation.  While entertaining and enjoyable qualities in tasks are important, tasks that combine these with more substantive qualities will elicit deeper student engagement.  Students respond quite differently to tasks that are authentic “real-life” tasks – tasks that adults confront and that have importance beyond the classroom (e.g., creating artworks for a school-wide or public exhibition; critiquing one’s own musical performance; preparing for a concert) than to tasks without such traits.  Further, in a summary of motivational research (Kellaghan, Madaus, and Raczek, 1996) found that students respond positively to tasks that they perceive as challenging but “do-able” and that have relevance (value) to them.  Also, creative tasks, which provide the student a degree of freedom in their resolution (e.g., creating artworks that use design principles and functions to solve specific visual art problems embodied in the standards; composing a musical composition) can be a source of personal pride and intrinsic motivation.  To maximize motivation, then, teachers should develop tasks that are authentic, appropriately challenging, relevant, and creative.

Instructional/Assessment Strategies

Instructional/assessment strategies that make use of the three following inborn factors in human development also foster student motivation.

  • an “itch” to learn
  • a desire to grow up – fast! (the emerging “adult ego state”)
  • an urge to have greater control of their lives (an “internal locus of control”)

These are survival instincts, born of eons of evolution in a hostile world in which a survival advantage belonged to those who matured quickly, had a desire to learn about their environment, and had the wit and will to control or accommodate to it.

While these behaviors can be nettlesome to parents and teachers who must answer the “Why” questions of the young and deal with the drive for independence of later years, they are

important sources of motivation.  Active student involvement in which students help decide the task’s important targets and levels of proficiency includes these motivational factors.  This has been described as a “learning loop.”

Such involvement helps them

  • assume a degree of autonomy; (control)
  • take more responsibility and ownership for their own learning (an adult role);
  • gain a feeling of presence in the adult world by making artistic decisions on their own;
  • develop empowerment to “scratch” that itch to learn by helping them internalize the learning targets, construct understandings more readily, and recall and transfer them more easily.

These strategies, part of the learning loop, are based on these inborn traits.

For instance, in a music class preparing for a performance (e.g., a PTA performance by an elementary general music class or a concert or festival by an ensemble), students could address standards A/B, F, and G (National Standards 1/2, 6, and 7) by analyzing and evaluating tapes of their own practice sessions or rehearsals.  Using these tapes and the students’ critiques, the teachers will give supportive feedback on both their performance and their critiques.  They will use criteria previously developed with the students, such as accurate, detailed error detection; specific references to locations in the score; use of music terminology; suggestions for revision; and linkage of suggested solutions to the indicated problems.  Rubrics describing these criteria at different proficiency levels will have been developed by students and teacher.

A visual art example might be a standards-based project in which students plan and draft, as a class, in small groups, or as individuals, a design for a new school building or a redesign of an older one to present to the administration and board of education.  Before beginning, the class and teacher discuss the elements of design, the functional and physical characteristics of the building, and qualities such as utility and aesthetic effect.  During the project the students sketch and develop their ideas and regularly take part in self/teacher/peer assessment of their works in progress.  In music, composing a theme and variations for performance could be similarly addressed.

In this process, students assume a degree of control by having input on the learning targets before the beginning.  This and the formative self-assessment during the project are tasks that adult professionals address.  Such instructional strategies encourage students to scratch that itch for learning, often going beyond what the teacher would expect.  And such a task is authentic (has significance beyond the classroom); challenging; creative (more than one solution and more than one way to arrive at it); and relevant (is valued by the student).  This use of the learning loop can encourage an important habit of mind: reflection – standing off from the product of one’s work, viewing it objectively, and making judgments about it – in effect, using self-assessment as a learning tool.

It seems there are three “musts” and three “shoulds” in planning motivational and effective teaching/learning situations.

  1. Students must know the learning targets before the instructional/learning phase, and they should be involved in determining them, always relating them to the appropriate long-range goals.
  2. Students must have multiple opportunities for applying new understandings, analyzing and assessing the results, and revising the product and process (the learning loop).  This assessment – self, teacher and/or peer – and revision should be done in a non-competitive climate in the context of an authentic task, one that has significance beyond the school.
  3. Students must know if they are “on track” to the learning target and, upon completion, if they achieved it – and why.  This should result from the ongoing assessments of the learning loop embedded in the instructional process.

 Thinking Skills

The arts uniquely contribute to student development of thinking skills.  A natural result of a positive emotional response is enhanced valuing (affect) of the entity, event, or activity that caused the response.  Because the arts occasion such a response in students, these thinking skills are generally adopted, developed, and assimilated to a greater degree than in those areas of the curriculum without this emotional aspect.

However, some traditional practices in education militate against optimum development of thinking skills.  For many years the scores on tests have been regarded as the coin of the realm in student achievement.  This push to discover “What do the students know” has overlooked a more basic question – “What does it mean, ‘to know?’”  What constitutes true understanding?  A test score or the ability to use knowledge in a real situation?

If our job as educators is to prepare students for the adult world, perhaps we should frame the answer on what is needed to prepare students for their future adult roles.  In any field, the outstanding individuals are those who possess the declarative and procedural knowledge needed to find and define the problem in a novel situation; develop and implement a solution; analyze the result and the process that led to the result; and reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what would improve it next time.  This employs the full range of critical thinking skills and sets apart the outstanding individuals in any field – musicians, surgeons, machinists, artists, farmers, lawyers, etc.

However, in the current dominant model of teaching, which is all but mandated by NCLB, those competencies are not cultivated.  Students don’t find problems; they are given problems, drilled on their solution, and then given an assignment to complete for a grade.  The finding, defining, analyzing, and reflecting are generally not part of the students’ experience.  And when the adults in our society say that our graduates aren’t prepared for the real world, this lack may well be a major factor (why should we be surprised?).

Teachers find that fostering thinking skills in the normal work of the classroom or rehearsal is best done by starting small and by engaging students in the user-friendly “learning loop.” (Figure 2)  This is a critical thinking process in which students employ these skills in the same manner as adult practioners, a situation that enhances both learning and motivation.

Dimensions of Thinking

In the late 1980’S, ASCD’s publication, Dimensions of Thinking, identified 21 core thinking skills, grouped into eight categories.  These are developed in the arts naturally as students define an artistic problem, develop a solution, implement it, analyze and assess both process and product, and determine what would improve them.  However, because the traditional view has equated production/performance skills with the whole constellation of artistic abilities, direct instruction has tended to dominate instruction in the arts, under the assumption that all of artistic thinking and habits of mind would develop through producing/performing.  Instead, students develop such skills optimally only by actively using them in making artistic decisions.  Although direct instruction has its place in education, an over-reliance on it truncates the development of artistic and musical thinking.

While teachers should be conversant with the twenty-one skills listed in the chapter on core thinking skills (Dimensions of Thinking, ASCD) and aware of students’ use of them, in practice students “chunk” them as they produce the arts and respond to them (analyze and reflect).  The process of planning, performing, creating, and responding employs the full range of thinking skills valued in any field of work – mechanic, diplomat, chef, teacher, doctor, construction worker.  They are a natural aspect of “doing” the arts and are utilized in the learning loop model described above.  As stated earlier, in this process students function as adult practitioners, a situation that enhances both learning and motivation.

For instance, when, in preparation for a learning project (e.g., improving musical technique, representing the human figure in art, etc.), students and teachers develop the learning outcomes, criteria, and rubrics (Where do we want to go and what will it look like when we get there?), the students are using a cluster of skills: focusing – defining and clarifying problems and setting goals; remembering – recalling and using prior knowledge; information gathering – formulating questions; and analyzing – identifying the central issues.

Answering “How will we get there?” will involve another group of skills: analyzing – identifying main ideas, attributes, components, patterns, and relationships; remembering and evaluating – recalling and verifying prior knowledge; generating  – inferring, postulating, and predicting probabilities and possible outcomes of various strategies (e.g., If practice/skill/strategy x is used, then y will occur).

In addressing the third question, “Are we getting there,” students use other skills: organizing – comparing and contrasting their current work with the targets they helped develop; analyzing – identifying the elements of their work, their relationship to the total effect, and learning opportunities (a.k.a. “errors”); integrating – summarizing the works’ quality; and evaluating – verifying their conclusions and reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and what would improve it.  At this point the teacher and/or peers provide supportive feedback, which helps the student direct his/her efforts more effectively in an ongoing iteration of the “learning loop” cycle.


Use of such teaching strategies will result in students adopting certain valuable and transferable habits of mind – a sustained focus, analysis of and reflection on one’s work, critical thinking, remaining open to other views, and metacognition.

Metacognition, the knowledge of and executive control of one’s thinking, is also the key to transferring individual thinking skills to other contexts, which is the reason that, on the average, students in the arts achieve higher in other subjects and on such measures as the SAT and ACT tests.  Since students use these skills almost intuitively, they may be unaware of them.  Teachers can enhance student awareness of these skills by modeling them – “thinking aloud” when developing criteria and rubrics and naming the skills used.  This will familiarize students with the concepts.  A natural progression from that is occasionally having students identify and discuss the thinking skills they used in answering the three questions (Where are we going, how will we get there, are we getting there?).  By using and naming these skills, students will over time develop conscious control of an arsenal of these thinking strategies, which correlate with higher student achievement in other areas of the curriculum and are truly portable to other life situations.

Finally, while it is no surprise that better thinking skills produce such desirable effects as student self-efficacy, confidence, self-direction, risk-taking, and intrinsic motivation, teachers also report enhanced achievement – a win-win situation!

Classroom Climate

Classroom climate, motivation, thinking skills, and dispositions are closely allied.  The students’ sense of empowerment as they develop and gain internal control of thinking skills fosters motivation and a disposition to learn.  In turn, such development, control, and dispositions are most readily achieved in an environment that encourages risk-taking, autonomy, and mutual support.  In his study of this subject, Flanders found that, for optimal learning, classroom climate should be positive and supportive and that “the behavior of the teacher, more than any other individual, sets the climate of the class.”

Teachers can most readily influence climate by focusing on two complementary aspects of classroom interaction – the rapport between teacher and students and the rapport among the students.  In the first, the teacher can promote a positive rapport by functioning as a facilitator of the students’ efforts, emphasizing supportive interaction and assuming the role of an ally of the students who is working with them to improve their competency, rather than a judge for whom they must prove their competency.  This practice was described above as a “learning loop” (Figure 2) and is most successful when teacher and students are engaged in tasks with a goal and purpose beyond the classroom, such as working for excellence in a performance for another classroom, the public, or a music festival.

By initiating and maintaining a supportive climate, teachers can promote a bond of trust, students’ ownership of their own learning, and a willingness of the students to take risks, be creative, and pursue learning independently.  Teachers can encourage this rapport through such trust building practices as

  • teacher/student interviews, in which the teacher learns of students’ backgrounds, plans, desires, etc.;
  • collaborative teacher/student assessment of student work, in which the teacher takes student opinions and judgments seriously and gives non-judgmental feedback (#5 above);
  • student journals that provide communication between student and teacher;
  • requests by the teacher for students’ suggestions about a musical or artistic question.  This fosters intrinsic motivation by showing the students that they and their ideas are valued by the teacher.

In the second aspect, positive rapport among the students promotes a sense of community that encourages creativity, a sense of security, an intrinsic desire to learn, and the risk-taking and self-initiated learning mentioned above.  Teachers can nurture this by providing a non-competitive, collaborative atmosphere by

  • using teaching strategies that promote collaboration rather than competition such as small and large group work toward such shared goals as improving performance
  • encouraging students to use each other as learning resources
  • setting up peer interviews, which help students learn about and identify with each other
  • helping students learn to make constructive peer assessments and use them in their own work as learning tools

Such a safe and nurturing classroom environment, in which students are actively involved in their own learning, fosters a “community of learners” atmosphere.  This is the seedbed in which creativity flourishes, a vital ability of increasing importance in the evolving workplace.


This and the two previous sections, which deal with teaching strategies that promote thinking skills, motivation, and a positive classroom climate, are based on the recognition that students are learning machines, not empty vessels.  The teacher’s role, therefore, is to “light the fire” for learning, help the student develop and use thinking skills, and provide an environment that nurtures motivation and active student involvement.  In the classroom, teachers find that this can be accomplished through strategies that

  • utilize the learning processes and thinking skills inherent in the “learning loop;”
  • engage students actively in the learning process;
  • recognize the motivational potential both of students’ certain inborn propensities and the design of the learning tasks;
  • provide a positive learning climate through supportive teacher/student interaction.

Finally, in addition to higher student achievement and fewer discipline problems, teachers using this approach also report such desirable effects as student self-direction, self-confidence, and a positive affect for learning – an outcome to which all teachers aspire!

All of the preceding is based on a combination of the Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP) and PROPEL models.



Main needs and expectations to be taken into account in considering the motivation of people at work are described below.

Most of the working people have their physiological, security and belongingness needs satisfied. Their behaviour is mostly directed towards satisfying the fourth order needs of power, prestige and status. These are also called ‘ego needs’ or ‘esteem needs’ or ‘social motives’. These needs have been found to influence work behaviour of people in different work settings. These needs are described below:

The need for activity is a desire to be constantly doing things. This kind of person is a hard worker. The opposite of this is passivity, which is also a need to relax and not be disturbed.

The need for extension is a desire to be helpful to others and to provide one’s services to the organisation or nation. People dominated by this need will be good social workers and maintain good interpersonal relations.

The need for dependence is the need to consult others before making any decision. Such people feel insecure and want to be protected. They lack initiative and always look for direction from others.

The need for independence is a desire to do things individually and to be one’s own self. They prefer freedom. Like to make decisions. They dislike interference. They may consult others but do not seek approval.

The need for power is desire to influence others and gain control over them. Such people like to lead and enjoy giving directions to others. They are argumentative and seek leadership positions.

They need for aggression creates a desire to dominate others and to demonstrate one’s own strength at times, even physically. These people talk loud, are argumentative and may get into physical fights.

The need for status and prestige is a desire to be respected and treated with deference specially by others in the social situations. These people are status conscious, they may run for offices and show authoritarian tendencies when working with others.

The need for recognition demands recognition for one’s accomplishments. These people may be completely demotivated if their work is not immediately recognized.

The need for achievement is a concern for excellence. People dominated by this need are generally active, work hard, set high goals, take challenging tasks, desire pleasure from doing difficult things and look for quality.

In addition to the nine important needs mentioned above, there are two others that fall into second and third order needs that are important in the work place. These are the need for security and need for affiliation.

The need for security is the need to be secure about one’s own livelihood and to be sure to continue to have it, the domination by this need calls for economic security and causes frustration at lack of job. If people grumble about the job or save money for future, they are expressing a deficiency in this area, and the organisational policies are worth looking at.

The need for affiliation is a concern for establishing or maintaining warm and affectionate relations with others. To fulfill this need people join groups, invite people and develop attachment.

The satisfaction of these eleven needs mentioned above are important in the work place. The organization must provide opportunities to satisfy these needs to ensure a motivating environment in the work place. Understanding these needs and behaviour indicators of these motives help us to understand the people. Each person is different and unique and has a different mix of these needs in different degree in him/her. This must be appreciated and the working environment must be so structured that it provides opportunities for satisfying these needs. If these are considered carefully then there can be high motivation of people at work.

It is important to create conditions where scientists and other workers’ energies are not expanded totally in meeting their basic needs, but where opportunities exist to satisfy higher order needs. Create a climate for inter-dependent work rather than dependency. In the work place create a competitive climate through recognition of good work and a productive climate through personal example. The emphasis should be on problem solving rather than avoidance and attempt should be to motivate individually through guidance and counselling.

Various studies have been conducted for the management of motivation in the work situation. It is worthwhile to examine the results of some of these studies. The first of these studies is the Hawthorne experiment. In 1924, efficiency experts at the

Hawthorne, Illinois, plant of the Western Electric Company designed a research programme to study the effects of illumination on productivity.

Hawthorne Studies – Elton Mayo

In the initial study of Hawthorne, efficiency experts assumed that increases in illumination would result in higher output. Two groups of employees were selected: an experimental or test group, which worked under varying degrees of light, and a control group, which worked under normal illumination conditions in the plant. As lighting power was increased, the output of the test group went up an anticipated. Unexpectedly, however, the output of the control group went up also without any increase in light. Mayo and his associates discovered that the answer to this phenomenon was not in the production conditions aspect of the experiment, but in the human aspect. As a result of the attention lavished upon them by experimenters, the employees were made to feel they were an important part of the company. They no longer viewed themselves as isolated individuals but had become members of a congenial, cohesive work group. The relationships, that developed elicited feelings of affiliation, competence and achievement. This led to the conclusion that the most significant factor affecting organizational productivity is the interpersonal relationships that develop on the job, not just pay and working conditions. The work of Mayo paved the way for the development of the now classic “Theory X – Theory Y” by Douglas Mc Gregor.

Theory X and Theory Y (Douglas Mc Gregor):

According to the Mc Gregor, traditional organization with its centralized decision making, superior – subordinate pyramid, and external control of work, is based upon certain assumptions about human nature and human motivation. These assumptions which he describes as Theory X, are, that most people prefer to be directed, are not interested in assuming responsibility, and want safety above all. Accompanying this philosophy is the belief that people are motivated by money, fringe benefits, and the threat of punishment. Mc Gregor found this a questionable method for motivating those people whose physiological and safety needs are reasonably satisfied and those social, esteem and self-actualization needs are becoming predominant. He felt that management needed practices based on a more accurate understanding of human nature and motivation. As a result of these feelings he developed an alternate theory of human behaviour called Theory Y. This theory assumes that people are not, by nature

lazy and unreliable. It postulates that people can be basically self-directed and creative at work if properly motivated. Therefore, it should be the essential task of management to unleash this potential in individuals. The properly motivated people can achieve their own goals best by directing their own efforts towards accomplishing organizational goals.

The impression that one might get from the discussion of Theory – X and Theory – Y is that managers who accept Theory X usually direct, control, and closely supervise people, while Theory Y managers are supportive and facilitating. This kind of conclusion could lead to the trap of thinking that Theory X is ‘bad’ and Theory Y is ‘good’. Although the best assumptions for a manager to have may be Theory Y, it may not be appropriate to behave consistent with those assumptions all the time. Managers may have Theory Y assumptions about human nature, but they may find it necessary to behave in a very directive, controlling manner (as if they had Theory X assumptions) with some people in the short run to help them “grow up” in a developmental sense, until they are truly Theory Y people.

Table 1 : List of assumptions about human nature that underline Mc Gregor’s

Theory X and Theory Y Theory X

Theory Y

Work is inherently distasteful to most peopleWork is as natural as play, if the conditions are favourable.
Most people are not ambitions, have little desire for responsibility, and prefers to be directed.Self-control is often indispensable in achieving organizational goals.
Most people have little capacity for creativity in solving organizational problems.The capacity for creativity in solving organizational problems is widely disturbed in the population.
Motivation occurs only at the physiological and safety levels.Motivation occurs at the social, esteem and self-actualization levels, as well as physiological and security levels.
Most people must be closely controlled and often coerced to achieve organizational objectives.People can be self-directed and creative at work if properly motivated.

 Question 1.

 Is It An External Factor or Does Motivation Come Only From Within?….


What is motivation-

Motivation is believed to be a process of the heart; to be able to find it inside yourself to move ahead with a belief in something bigger than you are. It is possible for most human beings to be motivated, but not necessarily be able to motivate themselves.

What is the  motivational process-

Process theories of motivation are about a cognitive rational process and concentrate on the psychological and behavioral processes that motivate an individual. Put simply, this is all about how people’s needs influence and drive their behavior. People need to see what is in it for them and to sense that “fair play” is being exercised to all concerned. Clearly a basic understanding of this is foundational to the psychological underpinning of successful change management and the strategies for managing change that will deliver that.

Why motivation is considered as internal factors-

It is difficult to be a human being. This difficulty stems in part from the myriad of needs that we are required to fulfill for ourselves in order to find happiness. Finding happiness is difficult in modern society due to the overwhelming push to find it in things outside ourselves. Simply, the general theme seems to be, “If or when I get something (i.e. the right job, relationship, car, house, money, etc.) I will be happy.” This type of thinking always results in a gap between ourselves and the goal of happiness; the carrot at the end of a string that we can’t quite reach. Once we get one thing, we will then need to seek out the next thing to keep the happiness fresh and alive. And so the cycle becomes or results in always looking for or trying to obtain happiness.

The Nature of Motivation:

Motivation is a set of internal and external influences that initiate various behaviors and dictate what those behaviors will look like, their direction, intensity and length. Any particular motivation results from various types of interaction between individual (internal) and environmental (external) characteristics that will ultimately spark the actions that people take. Individual characteristics consist of an individual’s personality traits, personal needs, perceptual makeup, and cognitive development (ways of thinking). External factors include things like rules, job requirements, social norms, government regulations and laws. Level’s of motivation can be measured in many ways: by comparing one’s actions to others’ actions, relating the level of action taken to expected outcomes (am I willing to take the amount of action necessary), confidence in one’s ability, consciously setting goals, the overall value that is placed on an expected outcome (is the prize valuable), and by the inherent determination levels of individuals.

It should be noted that declaring what you want to do in life is not such an easy thing to do. It can be very difficult to think in such a free way because of all the social conditioning that we have been exposed to in the form of people (priests, parents, teachers, friends, technology, etc.) telling us what to do versus encouraging us to do what we love. We block ourselves by taking the notion of doing “what makes sense” too far. It takes some time to clear all of this conditioning, but once it is done and we have tapped into our actual interests the fun really begins. The bottom line is, if you are doing what you choose, it is far easier to be motivated each day.

Question 2. What is the implication of theory X and theory Y for the motivation purpose?


Implication of Theory X &Y

Theory X

In this theory, which has been proven counter-effective in most modern practice, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that they inherently dislike work. As a result of this, management believes that workers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. A hierarchical structure is needed with narrow span of control at each and every level. According to this theory, employees will show little ambition without an enticing incentive program and will avoid responsibility whenever they can. According to Michael J. Papa, if the organizational goals are to be met, theory X managers rely heavily on threat and coercion to gain their employee’s compliance. Beliefs of this theory lead to mistrust, highly restrictive supervision, and a punitive atmosphere. The Theory X manager tends to believe that everything must end in blaming someone. He or she thinks all prospective employees are only out for themselves. Usually these managers feel the sole purpose of the employee’s interest in the job is money. They will blame the person first in most situations, without questioning whether it may be the system, policy, or lack of training that deserves the blame. A Theory X manager believes that his or her employees do not really want to work, that they would rather avoid responsibility and that it is the manager’s job to structure the work and energize the employee. One major flaw of this management style is it is much more likely to cause Diseconomies of Scale in large businesses. This theory is a negative view of employees.

Theory Y

In this theory, management assumes employees may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that employees enjoy their mental and physical work duties. According to Papa, to them work is as natural as play. They possess the ability for creative problem solving, but their talents are underused in most organizations. Given the proper conditions, theory Y managers believe that employees will learn to seek out and accept responsibility and to exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives to which they are committed. A Theory Y manager believes that, given the right conditions, most people will want to do well at work. They believe that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivation. Many people interpret Theory Y as a positive set of beliefs about workers. A close reading of The Human Side of Enterprise reveals that McGregor simply argues for managers to be open to a more positive view of workers and the possibilities that this creates. He thinks that Theory Y managers are more likely than Theory X managers to develop the climate of trust with employees that is required for human resource development. It’s here through human resource development that is a crucial aspect of any organization. This would include managers communicating openly with subordinates, minimizing the difference between superior-subordinate relationships, creating a comfortable environment in which subordinates can develop and use their abilities. This climate would include the sharing of decision making so that subordinates have say in decisions that influence them. This theory is a positive view to the employees.

XY Theory Management Application – Business Implications for Workforce Motivation

If Theory Y holds true, an organization can apply these principles of scientific management to improve employee motivation:

  • Decentralization and Delegation – If firms decentralize control and reduce the number of levels of management, managers will have more subordinates and consequently will be forced to delegate some responsibility and decision making to them.
  • Job Enlargement – Broadening the scope of an employee’s job adds variety and opportunities to satisfy ego needs.
  • Participative Management – Consulting employees in the decision making process taps their creative capacity and provides them with some control over their work environment.
  • Performance Appraisals – Having the employee set objectives and participate in the process of evaluating how well they were met.

If properly implemented, such an environment would result in a high level of workforce motivation as employees work to satisfy their higher level personal needs through their jobs.

Question 3. Review trait theories in the context of nature vs. nurture.


The “Trait” Theory of Leadership

The trait theory of leadership emerged from the first systematic studies into leadership. This way of understanding leadership is still being studied and refined today.

Understanding Traits

Personal traits refer to enduring tendencies that people have to act, think and feel certain ways. By their very nature traits describe deeply entrenched mental and behavioral habits people have formed, and as such they can be good predictors of how someone will act in the future . For example, if we already know that someone is shy, we can predict that whenever possible, they are likely to avoid large social gatherings with people they do not know wherever possible and that they will act in a socially awkward and withdrawn manner when they are forced to attend such gatherings. We do not know for certain that a shy person will act that way, but we know that it is likely – especially in the absence of other mitigating factors.

Traits of Effective Leaders

Throughout history people have described the characteristics they have seen in great leaders of their time . In doing so they unwittingly became the first students of the trait approach to understanding leadership. This informal study of leadership through observation and commentary continues in the media today. However, it was during the 1940s that researchers began earnestly and systematically looking for those qualities or traits which saw people emerge as leaders, and set great leaders apart.

No single list of traits was found to hold true for every leader, in every situation. Subsequently, the focus of leadership research moved away from the personal characteristics of leaders, and towards learning what it was that effective leaders actually did – observable behaviours and skills. For decades trait theories of leadership were shunned and largely ignored. More recently, there has been general recognition that personal traits do indeed play an important role in shaping a leader’s effectiveness[. Specifically, certain abilities, motives and aspects of a leader’s personality can work to help or hinder a leader as they go about their work. For example:

  • Leaders with an internal locus of control are more likely to initiate needed action.
  • Leaders with high need to be liked by others will find it harder to take decisive, tough stands when needed.

You do not need to possess all of these traits to lead well, and in some situations different traits will have more impact than others, however possessing a number of these traits will make it far easier for you to lead well.

What is Nature v Nurture?

It has been reported that the use of the terms “nature” and “nurture” as a convenient catch-phrase for the roles of heredity and environment in human development can be traced back to 13th century France. Some scientists think that people behave as they do according to genetic predispositions or even “animal instincts.” This is known as the “nature” theory of human behavior. Other scientists believe that people think and behave in certain ways because they are taught to do so. This is known as the “nurture” theory of human behavior.

Fast-growing understanding of the human genome has recently made it clear that both sides are partly right. Nature endows us with inborn abilities and traits; nurture takes these genetic tendencies and molds them as we learn and mature. End of story, right? Nope. The “nature vs nurture” debate still rages on, as scientist fight over how much of whom we are is shaped by genes and how much by the environment.

Debate on Nature vs. Nurture

There has always been a large controversy over whether  inherited genes or the environment influences and effects our  personality, development, behavior, intelligence and ability.  This controversy is most often recognized as the nature verses nurture  conflict.  Some people believe that it is strictly genes that effect our ways of life, others believe that it is the environment that effects us, and some believe that both of these influence our behavior.  Either way, social scientists have been struggling for centuries deciding whether our personalities are born or made.  Tests are done often on identical twins that were separated to see how they are each influenced by their separate environments. In the past twenty years, it has been discovered that there is a genetic component to every human trait and behavior.  However, genetic influence on traits and behavior is partial because genetics account on average for half of the variation of most traits.  Urie Bronfrenbrenner, who studies genetics, said, “It is not nature vs. nurture, but the interaction of nature and nurture that drives development.”  Researchers are finding that the balance between genetic and environmental influences for certain traits change as people get older.  Also, people may react to us in a certain way because of a genetically influenced personality and, we may choose certain experiences because they fit best with our instinctive preferences.  This means that our experiences may be influenced by our genetic tendencies.  One way researchers study the development of traits and behaviors is by measuring the influence of genetics through out ones life span, and it is found to be that the genetic influence on certain trait increase as people age.  A research was done to see whether a trait would show up in a child if it was environmentally influenced or genetically influenced.  A child was given more negative attention than another was, and it increased the chances of the child having depressive symptoms and anti-social behavior.  But  these symptoms disappeared when accounted for genetic influences and how  parents treat their children. There are three types of gene/environment relations.  The first one is called a passive correlation.  It is to be explained as, for example, if a musical ability was genetic, and a child was passed a musical ability trait, than the child would most likely have musically inclined parents.  Their parents then would provide them with the genes and environment to promote the development of that ability.  The second one is called evocative.  This happens when genetically distinct people evoke different reactions from peers and parents and others.  And the third association is called an active correlation.  This is when people actively select experiences that fit with their genetically influenced preferences.  This doesn’t mean that there are no environmental influences on behavior, because, for example, it is found to be that a loss of a parent during childhood promotes alcoholism in women.  It is also shown that genetics play a big role in influencing people within society.  Leadership is a big quality that everyone has and there is a wide range of variations.  Heritability is what researchers call ‘the degree to which behavioral variations within a population can be accounted for by genes.’  Heritability is what is found to make up a lot of one’s personality.  For quite some time scientists have been trying to draw a line between heredity and leadership also.  There is no single leadership personality.  Even intelligence can only go so far with leadership.  It also involves how people make decisions, and how they  give and carry out rules, how they are involved with a group, and how they inspire and respect others.  The list of characteristics is endless. Although genes seem to play as a map for a person’s life, researchers caution that genes act only as an influence.  Anyone who has enough will or a strong enough experience could effect the way they act  or react for the rest of their life.  In other words, if an environmental background is changed, the amount of variation that is due to genetics can change. In conclusion, it is safe to say that the role of genetics and the environment equalize people’s traits and behavior.  You cannot blame either one because without one, the other would not be activated.  Genes effect a lot of your personality and behavior but the environment mutates and molds the way people are going to act.  This will always be an ongoing controversy because it is nearly impossible to pin point  accurately where the role of genes and the environment steps in.

Human Motivation