The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Reflection: Cultivating Motivation in Leadership Roles

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On February 18th, Dustin Jones gave a presentation on cultivating motivation in individual and leadership roles. According to Dustin, there are two types of motivation systems: extrinsic and intrinsic. In the traditional extrinsic motivation system, also known as a “carrot stick” reward system, we’re given a “carrot”-like positive reward when we complete a task and a “stick”-like negative consequence when we perform poorly on a task. While this system does hold some merit, Sam Glucksberg’s Candle Problem experiment showed the limitations of extrinsic motivation in practice; among other limitations, extrinsic motivation narrows your focus on completing tasks in a typical routine instead of exploring creative problem solving. The second motivation system is that of intrinsic motivation; as highlighted by Dan Pink in his “The Puzzle of Motivation” TED talk, intrinsic motivation is defined by promoting autonomy (the urge to direct our own lives), mastery (the desire to get better at things that matter), and purpose (yearning to do something in service of something larger than ourselves).


There are several benefits of inspiring motivation by offering autonomy, prospects of mastery, and purpose. First, intrinsic motivation cultivates a love of learning and of exploration, rather than a love of completing tasks and being rewarded for them, which can often lead to burnout and detachment from the work. Second, intrinsic motivation presents a way to motivate people with less financial resources, for instance in non profit settings, and still be equally as effective. Third, intrinsic motivation can lead us to feel more centered in a sense of purpose that will not vary even when there are many changes in our jobs and the work we are doing. From this presentation, I have first, learned to rethink motivating factors by thinking about these factors in terms of long-term elements rather than motivation for short-term goals, such as completing a paper or submitting an application, and second, been encouraged me to develop a mindset of motivation in terms of positive attributes, such as purpose, instead of focusing on the more potentially negative attributes, such as deadlines.

-Written by Rachna Shah, Class of 2021 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow 

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences