Unleaded or Premium? Do you know what fuel is driving you as a Leader?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been driven to achieve. To get amongst it, and to always give it a ‘red-hot’ go. According to every behavioural profile analysis tool I have ever taken part in, achievement and getting in there and having a go has always been one of my strengths. I often get asked how I maintain my enthusiasm towards success and achieving on a consistent basis. Who knows if it is something I was already born with, something that was already wired within me or if my drive and determination toward achievement came from my upbringing? 

As a kid of a farm hand growing up in outback Australia we moved every year to follow the work available to us, so I always found myself in new environments, moving to a new school every year of my life until I hit my 2nd year at High School, I had to learn adaptability from a very early age. My home changed every year, so I had to learn to be flexible and to accept, and as a kid I guess I always saw this as a new adventure. At school, I was always the new kid on the block, out to make new friends and to find a way to fit in. I discovered as part of my strategy that one of the quickest ways to get noticed was to achieve. And the more challenging that achievement was, the better. Because, let’s face it, most kids like to get noticed and I guess I was no different.

As I have moved on through life my curiosity towards entering all I do with a sense purpose and intention has led me to learn and appreciate just how critical it is to know what ‘fuels’ the things I do. And it is not always as obvious as you might think. In my case, it is not bad to achieve great things, but it does come down to gaining a greater clarity and understanding as to what drives the need to achieve within me.

I’ve seen many leaders throughout my career who have operated within their areas of strength, yet have done so in un-resourceful and unhealthy ways. It has crept up on them, and over time the dirty ‘fuel’ that drives them towards achievement starts to show its flaws and the cracks start to appear and I am sure that they wish they had lent towards a more premium fuel source.

Here are a list of ‘dirty’, low-grade fuels that leaders often use in their tanks:

  • The green eyed monster, driven purely by jealousy towards another person
  • Money and greed, where financial success is their main aim and their only form of motivation or inspiration
  • To look good and to get noticed, where their own self image is more important than being amongst the troops that make them a leader in the first place
  • The sense of power and control they get from being in the limelight and leading from the front
  • Always out to please others whilst their own benchmarks, standards and expectations are compromised at a cost just to ensure they are liked 
  • Putting unhealthy and dirty fuel in your tank is like using steroids to enhance your performance – success will be there in the short term, you will generally get a good short-term result, you will get noticed, yet the long term consequences will generally leave you with a lot of pain, hurt, blame, deny and justify towards why things didn’t work out. Get it wrong and watch the path of destruction that you leave behind. Get it right and watch how things will flow easily and effortlessly to you to guide you down the right path in order to lead others. 


Here is a list of questions that when I feel my sense of purpose or intent starting to wane that I ask myself and work through. I do this to confirm that I know what is truly driving me and find that this is enough to keep me on the right track.

1) Am I using my strengths for the good of the people, the project or the organisation or I am only doing it to seek validation and affirmation from my peers? 

2) What is my true motivation for my involvement? Is it for the sake of others, or the vision of the big picture we are working towards or merely to elevate my own ego or status? 

3) Does what I am doing line up with my values and belief system of who I believe I represent and what I stand for?

It is okay to walk away from things that are not congruent with your values and belief system and I have been known to do this because things were just so far off from who I believe I am and although the success of the project would have been great I would have been achieving for the sake of achieving and not remaining true to who I am. 

4) If the outcome that I am looking for is not attained, then how much of my self-worth is in it? Remembering here that there is no failure, simply feedback, how much of my identity have I attached to any potential fall or set back? How much feedback am I prepared to take? I know this sounds slightly pretentious but at a basic level it is core to be able to lead from a healthy place. 

Un-resourceful or unhealthy achievement, or the unhealthy pursuit of anything, even when you are playing to your strengths will catch up to you and eventually and it will take its toll. Having learnt this first hand, I now make sure that my relationships are solid and sound and that I am actually in the relationship with people who follow me or who turn to me for their source of inspiration to take action. I now have an open door at all times to a small group of people who pull me up when I need to be pulled up. They know my weaknesses, my dysfunctions that can play out at times, so they confront me when needed and keep me grounded. They keep things real which enables me to remain functioning resourcefully and from a healthy place or state. 

The challenge here is to first be very open, honest and upfront with yourself about what drives you and what fuel you have in your tank and then constantly do the servicing and maintenance you require to use only the fuel source worthy of being a great leader, which I believe is a love of people and a love for this planet. Anything short of that is dirty, cheap and merely an imitation of the real thing. It never pays to fill your tank with or run on anything else……..ever.

So ask yourself, what is the fuel that motivates you? And would people around you agree?


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