Driven to Lead: What Makes People Tick


Driven to Lead: What Makes People Tick

“Our understanding of leadership can be no better than our understanding of what makes humans, all humans, tick—what are the ultimate motivators of our behavior.” ~ Warren Bennis

Leadership is about relationships with others. You cannot lead without understanding the innate drives that are essential to human development and survival.


Decades of research have given us numerous theories about drive and motivation, to include:

· Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization)

· Intrinsic and extrinsic motivators (inner satisfaction and desires, external rewards and payoffs)

· The well-documented drives to achieve autonomy, mastery and purpose in our personal and professional lives.

· Economist Milton Friedman’s agency theory, which argues that rational self-interest motivates all human behavior — and that businesses’ sole purpose is to maximize shareholder returns. (Over time, behavioral economists have proved there’s much more to human behavior than rational self-interest.)


Scientists have fragmented the search for the most fundamental drives that make humans tick. Every discipline has proposed a different theory that contains some truths, as viewed through the discrete lenses of:


· Cultural anthropology

· Sociology

· Psychology

· Genetics

· Evolutionary biology

· Economics

· Neurology


Perhaps the most noteworthy deduction about human behavior can be attributed to Charles Darwin’s scientific studies, published more than 150 years ago. In The Descent of Man (1871), the British naturalist observed that the most important distinction between humans and the lower species is our innate moral sense: our conscience.