Leadership by cooperation- Learning to motivate your team the right way.

by Jul 27, 2021Leadership

Whenever you work with two or more people, be it in your home, your job or in your social life, one thing that is indispensable for your success is cooperation. This same principle also forms the basis of any democratic form of government and the system of free enterprise.  

However, different people in various leadership posts have a different understanding of what motivates cooperation. Whatever their understanding, the motivation is of two kinds. One part is cooperation that is motivated by fear or need while another is based on the voluntary willingness of the parties involved.

It’s amazing how many people, especially in the business world, will result in using fear as a motivating factor while ignoring the many benefits that would result from willingful effort. Harsh words, unrealistic deadlines, the threat of termination from work; all of which can make an employee feel like they are walking on a minefield. And no one runs in a minefield, they walk carefully and slowly- too slow for your liking. When your people are on high alert, they are cautious, quiet and they silently agree with you even (and especially) when you are wrong. 

Real teamwork can only be acquired by establishing the proper motive to induce friendly coordination of effort.  

Lessons from a business magnate who understood cooperation

One man who understood this principle that has long stood the test of time is Andrew Carnegie, the great industry leader and steel businesses magnate. Three of the things he did in his lifetime still form a basis of a universal formula for inspiring teamwork. His system was simple and I believe every leader, manager, project head or executive would benefit greatly by adopting it in their own life.

First, he established a monetary incentive through promotions and bonuses designed so that a part of every individual’s job depended on the sort of service he or she rendered. Reward is a good motivator, especially when used fairly and with merit. The people putting in the work quickly learn, contrary to the saying, that no good deed goes unrewarded. 

Secondly, Carnegie never reprimanded or admonished any of his employees openly. He would always talk to them in private, away from the glaring eyes of their fellow colleagues. he had also cleverly developed the habit of causing the employees to reprimand themselves by asking carefully directed questions that would have them reflect on their conduct and assess whether the actions they took were befitting the situation at hand.

Finally, he never made decisions on behalf of his executives. Instead, he encouraged them to make their own decisions and be fully responsible for the results. This inspired them to be confident in their own leadership abilities and they were free to be creative with the solutions they came up with for different challenges.

The Results

Carnegie’s method encourages individual achievement in a team structure. When executed, this means giving cooperation as well as receiving it. It often results in higher productivity from the team since they are under less pressure and feel that they belong and are part of a community that cares for them. 

For the leader, it also opens up their time since they do not need to be involved with every small decision and are not often at loggerheads with their teammates or colleagues.

The philosopher William James once said, “If you can influence others to cooperate with you in a friendly spirit, you can get anything you want with little or no resistance.

That is a bold statement but it also happens to be true. At the heart of any large successful cooperation, you will find that it’s every heartbeat is teamwork, inspired from the top down.

If you as a leader learn to work well with your team and inspire willingful cooperation- your team will definitely carry you to success. 



Samuel Njoroge writes and speaks about Creativity, Strategy, Leadership and Productivity. 

Through his boutique firm, Azelea Coaching Advisory, he works directly with over 100 business leaders and entrepreneurs each year to help them design the necessary framework to achieve their biggest business targets. 

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Samuel's specialty is designing and breaking down complex projects to really simple steps. 

Email: Info@samuelnjoroge.co.ke

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