Practicing Supreme Loyalty to Christ
Although leadership training aims to teach bosses how to be leaders that others will follow, a key component of being an effective leader comes from understanding what actually motivates someone to follow a leader. People generally follow a leader for one of two different motivations: rational motivation and irrational motivation.
Rational motivation is fairly easy to determine. People will work for a boss to gain a paycheck, or status, or personal fulfillment. In those cases, a leader can motivate followers by providing the tangible rewards that the followers are looking for. A raise in pay or a promotion can be a great motivator for such a follower.
Irrational motivation is less apparent and varies greatly from follower to follower. In fact, a follower may be motivated by multiple irrational factors. One of the most common of the irrational motivations is something that Freud called “transference.” A follower can transfer their emotional attachment for someone from their past—most often a parent—to the leader.
Transference is a positive motivator when that past relationship was healthy. In those cases, a follower is motivated by genuine (appropriate) love and respect for the leader. If the relationship was negative, however, the follower can be motivated by fear, or a dysfunctional need to please that person.
In most cases, the leader rarely knows when transference is occurring, so it’s important for good leaders to maintain proper, healthy boundaries in their relationships with their followers. A leader may not understand all of the nuances of irrational motivations, but they can manage and channel those motivations by being sensitive and listening to the needs of their followers.
One leader who knows each follower intimately is Jesus. Jesus knows both our rational and our irrational motivations. We may follow Jesus to gain the promise of eternal rewards. We may also follow because Jesus meets our deep-seated emotional and spiritual needs. If we do happen to transfer some relational issue to Christ, in Jesus we find the perfect fulfillment of that need.
Colossians 3:18-4:1 outlines the simple irrational motivation for each member of our families and society as a whole. Men need respect, and women need love. Parents need order in the home, and children need nurture. Those in authority need cooperation from their subordinates, and those under authority need fair treatment and compensation from their supervisors.
Jesus, as our supremely wise and compassionate Lord, is a leader we can follow to the ends of the earth and beyond.
Connecting: Do you have (or have you ever had) a mentor or coach that you will follow unquestioningly? What is it about this person that makes you loyal to them?
Sharing: How can a leader best maximize the transference principle for optimal production in any organization?
- Perform psychological testing on each employee to learn which personal relationship they are transferring to their supervisor
- Perform psychological testing to determine the irrational motivations of each employee to maximize the fulfillment of those needs
- Don’t try and understand irrational motivations—they are too complicated and time consuming; rather, increase rational motivations (pay raises and promotions)
- Send the employees to counseling to deal with their own personal and relational issues and instruct them to leave those issues out of the workplace
- Pray for each member of the organization to find fulfillment in Christ
Applying: Do people tend to stay in your congregation long-term? Or rather, do you see people quietly slip out the door, never knowing why they left? Discuss among your group how well you see your local church meeting people’s intrinsic needs.
Valuing: Loyalty is often based on trust—it’s easier to remain loyal to someone you trust, and it’s hard to maintain loyalty when trust is broken. Are you by nature a trusting person? Why, or why not? How does this affect your personal relationships with family members and coworkers?
~ Chuck Burkeen