What motivates successful business leaders?

To be a successful business leader requires more than just ability, luck and hard work – it also requires the motivation to bring all of those things together and keep pushing forward day after day to achieve new goals and inspire others. Not every entrepreneur is a business leader. Genuine leaders inspire and empower people and lead by example. This means not only having self-motivationbut also the ability to continually motivate their employees, customers and clients to be the best that they can be and genuinely pursue their goals.

Motivation and the ability to motivate are perhaps the most important qualities that a business leader can have, but how are these qualities found? What makes the giants of business and industry tick? Not everyone is the same, but several common factors do keep cropping up among those who are truly making their mark on the world.

Making money

Earning a lot of money is an obvious answer, but it’s not as shallow as it may seem. Initially, you need to make money in order to survive and for your business to grow. You may also want to lift yourself and your family out of your current circumstances. However, money still motivates true business leaders even when it’s clear that they have enough for their needs. For example, Evangelos Marinakis invests some of his $650million (nearly £493 million) fortune on his passion for yachts and maintaining a dream lifestyle, but the Greek shipping tycoon and CEO of Capital Product Partners is also a noted philanthropist and spends large amounts on feeding and helping refugees as well as donating to numerous Greek charities.

Making a difference in the world

Many business leaders contribute to charities or foundations, but others are motivated by the belief that their work improves the world in its own right. This may be because they provide a product or service that vastly enhances lives or promote job creation and wealth distribution in previously disadvantaged areas. Daniel Lubetzky, CEO of New York-based KIND Snacks, comes from a non-profit background and is motivated by the desire to provide healthy, gluten-free and unprocessed food at an affordable price. Increasingly, business leaders are seeing how private enterprise can make the world a better place, and this is the drive that gets them out of bed in the morning.

The thrill of the game

Sometimes, it’s not so much the desire to make the most money that drives business leaders –it’s the desire to be the best. One should not underestimate the importance of peer pressure at all levels, and it’s safe to say that most successful business leaders have extremely competitive personalities. They often see business as a game and enjoy the thrill of winning or at least coming up with strategies and going the extra mile with the aim of coming out on top. They also understand that they may lose sometimes, but this just motivates them to bounce back and try even harder.

Passion for the product

 To be successful in business, you have to love what you’re doing for its own sake. Matt Urmy was a touring musician who took a day job designing electronic data capture systems following the birth of his son. Once back on the road, he wished thathe had a similar system for scheduling and data management, which led to him founding the company Artist Growth to set up just such a platform. Now serving over 10,000 musicians, including arena-level names, and working with major agencies, Urmy is still motivated primarily by his love of both music and technology and his desire to improve the lot of creative artists.


The desire for self-improvement and self-actualisation is a strong motivator for most successful business leaders. These people tend to be high achievers determined to realise their full potential. They know that personal growth is important, and a big part of this is learning new skills. “Every day is a school day,” and education never stops, particularly in the fields of technology and social change.Wanting to learn and grow alongside your business, perhaps accompanied by a healthy fear of being left behind, is also a quality that these leaders pass on to those working alongside them.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what motivates you, so long as you have that sense of purpose and continue to cultivate it. This is often known as “finding your why.” Meaningless tasks are repetitive and dull, but once you invest them with meaning,you have the motivation to continue. Whatever level you’re working at currently, meaning and purpose create motivation, and motivation makes you work better and harder at whatever you’re doing.


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