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People tend to be motivated by four basic forces: community, conquest, change and crisis. Wise leaders learn to employ different forces at appropriate times and vary their motivational styles depending upon the circumstances. Combining several of these can generate a powerful force as leaders rally followers to achieve a significant and worthy vision.

Community - Many people are motivated by their commitment to the group. They strive to be accepted or give freely of themselves for the common good. In the best cases, people show their altruism and desire to help others. Many however, cave in to peer pressure and go with the flow with little regard to the road ahead.

Thomas spoke to the other disciples and said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Whether from commitment or resignation, Thomas was motivated to stay (and even die) within his community.

Conquest - We may never know whether competition became part of the human condition before or after the fall. However, it is with us and is evidenced throughout the world. The World Cup rivalry between nations brings out the best in human competition; war and armed conflict the worst. Nations compete economically, ideologically, technologically and at times militarily. Individuals compete for status, power, finances, and friends.

But not all competition is between nations and people. Goal achievement becomes a significant focus of our desire to compete. We work to attain goals and achieve objectives. Sometimes goals and objectives are mandatory arising from work, school, government or other outside forces. Many goals arise from within our hearts and minds challenging us to do more and attain higher standards.

Change - Altering the course of events and redirecting the trajectory of life motivates others. Many people are motivated by the prospect of relieving pain and suffering or offering opportunity to those in need. Change in the human condition is a powerful motivator and provides a great deal of satisfaction. More so, those who contribute to the relief of eternal pain and suffering by offering God’s gift to those in need.

Crisis - Immediate needs and urgency launch people into action. Sometimes that action is appropriate and necessary: David fought Goliath, Nehemiah rebuilt the wall and Paul escaped in a basket. Other times the crisis motivates people to thrash wildly and react without thinking:

Jonah ran from God, Saul offered an inappropriate sacrifice, and Peter grabbed a sword and lopped off an ear.

When the elements of community, conquest, change and crisis are intertwined, leaders have a powerful tool to motivate followers. After spending three years building a small group of followers (community), Jesus gave them the challenge to make disciples of the whole world (conquest). He then instructed them to teach people to observe all the things he had taught them (change). He reminded them that he would be with them but that there was a terminal point, the end of the age (crisis).

Lead well. Motivate with intention. Build community. Set goals. Seek change. Act urgently yet thoughtfully.

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