Reward-based Leadership vs Responsibility-based Leadership

Recently I facilitated a leadership training class where we were reviewing Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Motive. The book breaks down two fundamental types of thinking leaders have about their role. Reward-based Leadership thinking revolves around individuals thinking they have earned the right to lead and enjoy all the trappings and status benefits of their leadership title. Responsibility-based Leadership thinking revolves around individuals feeling that it is an honor to lead those around them and they have a responsibility to improve the lives of those they come into contact with. These two thinking styles are on a continuum where at times we may feel either end of the spectrum, with the goal of owning the abdication of responsibilities that comes with reward thinking so we can move back on the continuum to responsibility leadership thinking.

The class was filled with 30 middle management leaders who were asked to share their reward centered thoughts so we could normalize and acknowledge this ego centric thinking.  The class opened-up and shared vulnerability about times they had taken an entitlement mindset. Here are a few of their thoughts from this ego driven paradigm:

  • I work harder than my peers, why am I paid less?
  • I deserve a bonus
  • I deserve a raise
  • I’m a manager, I should not have to do that
  • I need this promotion to help pay my bills
  • I deserve this role because of my experience
  • That sounds like a job for my staff
  • I do more then X so I should get Y
  • Why can’t people work as hard as me
  • I deserve to come in late because I work late
  • I outrank you
  • Just do what I’m asking you to do
  • I only want to do what I like to do

Do these sound familiar to you too?  I know I’ve thought like this at times. The training class participants are growing into their leadership role and digging deeper into their own biases to see that a reward centered mindset is not the true point of leadership within an organization. A responsibility-centered leadership mindset recognizes that leadership is a duty to serve those in our care, so they grow into the best version of themselves. We have a responsibility to support our staff in becoming the fullness of their potential. Leadership is a responsibility, not a right. Leadership is about coaching, mentoring, and training up the next generation of leaders in an organization.

Too often people in leadership roles have accepted promotions for the money, the status, or the perceived rewards and outward trappings of the title.  When this is the motivation to be a leader it creates situations where leaders shy away from doing what’s right to protect their ego and status. These types of motives lead to not working as hard, doing what we enjoy doing vs what needs to be done, and ignoring problems or delegating from laziness. Opening up the conversation to own one’s thinking on this leadership continuum is vital to help grow an organization’s leadership culture. No leader is perfect, and our reward centered thinking and behaviors can be very subtle.  It’s vital we challenge our thinking and own our internal bias so we can model vulnerability and ability to lean into crucial conversations for the next generation of leaders within our organization.

Contact a coach to learn how leadership training can improve your own organization’s performance.

Keyne Petkovic – Senior Coach – AssuredStrategy.com

Keyne Petkovic

Written by Keyne Petkovic

Keyne Petkovic, MS, has 15 years of executive management experience and played an active leadership role in company financial and business process improvement initiatives. She specializes in middle-management and executive level leadership training, coaching, and…

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