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Going Beyond Motivation to the Power of Volition

Why do motivated managers often fail to follow through? Because motivation is not enough. Superficial and dependent on incentives, motivation gives up in the face of serious obstacles. For purposeful action taking at work, managers must engage a more powerful attribute, their willpower. The best already do, crossing a personal Rubicon to deep commitment. How that happens is the subject of studies by professors from the London Business School and the University of St. Gallen. The researchers find that managers commit for highly individual reasons but that five strategies can help enterprises create the right environment.

The companies studied included large ones such as ConocoPhillips and Lufthansa and small ones such as Micro Mobility Systems of Switzerland. The managers who achieved their apparently impossible goals had in common an intense inner struggle to commit. Once their willpower was engaged, they were able to deal with setbacks and persevere.

The best way to build persistent organizational commitment is bottom-up, on the foundation of personal ownership of and commitment to specific initiatives and goals. In the world of mobile employees, frontline entrepreneurship and constant, unavoidable organizational restructuring, corporate leaders must develop that kind of commitment if they want to see action and follow-through in their companies.

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