Individual leadership strengthens motivation - why focus on each employee individually when working as a leader? What are the benefits?

This blog post addresses individuality from the leadership perspective. Why you should consider individuals in your supervisor work, what are the basics of individual leadership and how individual leadership is done in practice.

The empathetic leadership style of interaction has raised its head in recent years. Various themes in HRM come up on a regular basis, such as the y-generation, leading different age groups, individual differences and motivation.

As we move from hierarchical and authoritarian leadership to personal leadership and coaching, it has been understood that each of us works and thinks differently. For example, not everyone is motivated by the same things. Therefore, the supervisor needs to understand individual differences and what affects them.

This blog post addresses individuality from the leadership perspective. Why you should consider individuals in your supervisor work, what are the basics of individual leadership and how individual leadership is done in practice.


Why Consider Individuals in Leadership?

Numerous studies have shown that work motivation is influenced by

  1. Personality factors, ie the employee's interests, attitudes towards work and self, and different needs
  2. Job characteristics, such as the meaning of the content of the job, the relevance of the job and the variety of skills required for the job
  3. Work environment factors such as organizational management, monthly salary, colleagues, working conditions and workplace safety
  4. Stage of life, meaning the importance of work in different situations of life and hence the motivation for work is different at different times


It is important to note that people's perception of work is completely personal. One finds the job interesting, the co-workers comfortable and the salary good, while the other may experience shortcomings in one or all of the above.

As you can see from the list above, there are many factors that influence motivation, and so people's attitudes and motivations towards their own work can vary significantly.

These different motivational factors influence what we are interested in at work or what makes us thrive. So, as a supervisor, it is important to understand what motivates your employees so that you can support and strengthen that motivation where possible, or at least be careful not to crush it.


What is individual leadership based on?

An individual-centered leadership style is based on two things:

  1. Identifying and developing your own leadership style
  2. Knowing your employees


Identifying and developing your own leadership style

Most managerial training involves some form of method or test designed to increase self-awareness. Many supervisors who have a desire to improve in their job also make a lot of self-reflection.

It is therefore important that the supervisor recognizes his or her own strengths and is able to use them in his or her job. It is equally important to recognize and acknowledge their own stumbling blocks, ie the challenges they face in their own style of action and interaction. Recognition of stumbling blocks is not always easy for everyone, or one does not see in one's own behavior what the environment sees as a problem.

It is good to look at identifying your own leadership style with a clear framework. As an example we use the Master EASI model, which consists of four different approaches and their unique combinations.

First, consider whether you tend to approach work-related tasks through people or things. Other supervisors feel that it is important to get people involved first and things follow. Others feel that things determine what and how to do and then involve people. In principle, neither is right or wrong, but it is important to know what is typical of yourself.

Similarly, you can look at how strongly you tend to take control of situations in your work and try to influence the direction in which things are moving. Or are you more part of the team, participating and doing things with others. Again, there is no clear right or wrong way of doing things.

After considering your positioning first with these two axes, you can start thinking about which of the four combinations of axes will be closest to your supervisor style. All options have good qualities from a managerial point of view - but most of us do not emphasize them all in our daily work. Most likely you are acting with emphasis on two different combinations.

Once you have identified the most common behavior styles for yourself, it is important to consider what challenges these styles can cause to your behavior as a leader. We can use a matter of fact and controlling style as an example. Being direct and rational can make it difficult for some team members to approach you, or you may need to pay special attention to creating a relaxed atmosphere within the team.


Knowing your employees

After analyzing your own leadership style, it is important to consider what kind of employees you have. The better you know your employees, the easier it is for you to understand them and find individual differences. However, it must be remembered that visible behavior is only the tip of the iceberg. We are influenced by many factors that remain "under the surface". Things below the surface also affect our behavior, but we do not know exactly what is affecting and how. We also learn a little about them by getting to know people. Some people talk about themselves more openly than others.

So be curious about your team members: curious to hear what's important to them at work and outside work. By understanding everyone's individual motivations, you are best placed to support them in their success and development. Identifying the working styles of different people also helps.

Identifying a person's motivation is often not easy. How a person performs at work at the moment is not necessarily the same as what motivates them. The best way to find out is motivation is through a high-quality framework, such as Master EASI.


Tips for Individual Leadership

- Get to know people as well as possible: be interested in their interests, dreams, personal goals, inspirations at work, life situation, etc.

- Observe people's way of working and interacting with others: get insights on how to communicate with them and how to control their work

- Find out whether the employee needs a lot of guidance from the supervisor or wants to work as independently as possible. Try to give space wherever possible or to be present and available according to what everyone expects.

- You can ask what the employees expect from the manager or what they think is good managerial work. Because we are all different, the ideas of what a good manager is like also vary. Of course, this makes the work of supervisors challenging, but at least you can try to accommodate different expectations where possible.

- It's easier to talk to some than to others. Learn to value everyone's strengths - each of us has the skills and strengths, each of us also has room for improvement. A manager does not need to be liked by everyone, but everyone must be valued.

- Develop your interaction and communication skills. Adapting your own communication style to the situation and the style of the other person allows for better interaction. For others, adjusting or customizing your interactions to the style of the other person is more natural, but it is something that everyone can learn.

- Learn to be a good feedback provider. Everyone is thirsty for feedback. Well-reasoned acknowledgment and praise inspires and motivates. Constructive feedback helps people to develop. Especially young people are waiting for feedback, because their own competence in the task is still developing. It is not easy to give constructive feedback, but at best it is a good way to discuss work.

Category: Leadership, Development

Datum: 15.12.2020

Ulla Vilkman

Content Writer