lars van tuin artwork
lars van tuin artwork
lars van tuin artwork

Navigating Motivation at Work

About Leadership, Purpose, Values, and Basic Psychological Needs
– door Lars van Tuin

Motivation lies at the core of human behavior. It explains why we do what we do. With this thesis, we seek an explanation for the beneficial influence of leadership, corporate purpose, and values ​​on employee engagement through motivation.

Motivation lies at the core of human behavior. It explains why we do what we do. With this thesis, we seek an explanation for the beneficial influence of leadership, corporate purpose, and values ​​on employee engagement through motivation. Engaged employees derive energy from their work, are dedicated, and display higher psychological well-being and performance. Our research identifies motivation as an underlying mechanism linking leadership with positive outcomes. Leadership at the service of motivation boosts engagement and serves the need for self-determination and meaning. A corporate purpose embracing all stakeholders instead of just the shareholders positively affects motivation and engagement; Employees identify with an inspiring mission and vision. Corporate values ​​aimed at contributing to a better world reinforce this even further, as does a work environment with room for personal and professional growth. We have empirically tested these principles in three studies. A fourth tested leadership and motivation in an intervention study. Navigating motivation at work supports employees to flourish, develop, and find significance.

The purpose of the current study was to test engaging leadership, which is a recently developed leadership concept based on basic psychological needs theory. Drawing on self‐determination theory, the current study hypothesized that basic psychological needs mediate the relationship between engaging leadership and both positive and negative outcomes. An association between need satisfaction and positive results and an association between need frustration and adverse outcomes were expected. The survey data, collected from three comparable groups from two multinational, technical engineering organizations (N = 304), were analyzed using partial least squares structural equation modeling. Autonomy satisfaction was found to play a pivotal role in the leadership model and was associated with increased positive outcomes, such as work engagement and autonomous motivation, and decreased unfavorable motivational consequences, such as controlled motivation and amotivation. The highlighted role of autonomy satisfaction informs leaders to focus on the positive aspects of leadership and need fulfillment rather than aiming to diminish frustration. Additionally, the current study adds to the growing body of knowledge on effective leadership approaches in a fast‐changing complex business world and on the benefits of autonomy‐supportive work environments.

Read the full article as appeared in Journal of Leadership Studies

It is generally assumed that a corporate purpose aiming to benefit all stakeholders has a positive effect on employee motivation and engagement, but no empirical studies into these specific effects were found. To examine this assumption, a corporate mission and vision matching the definition of a higher purpose were tested in two subsequent studies. The first study (N = 270) was a cross-sectional self-report study. The second study included a longitudinal design (N = 56) modeling purpose, motivation, and engagement in a cross-lagged panel model over three time-points. The results associated purpose with motivation and engagement. The subsequent longitudinal analysis confirmed the presumed directionality from purpose to engagement, but not to motivation. Hence, while a corporate purpose can be added to the list of antecedents to work engagement, the relationship with motivation, despite the significant association with purpose in the cross-sectional study, remains more complicated. The present study adds to the knowledge of the beneficial effects of a broader purpose and responds to the current surge of interest in purpose as an instrument for sustainable business.

Read the full article as appeared in Frontiers in Psychology

Should leaders pay more attention to values? The present study aims to examine and explain the associations of engaging leadership with employees’ perceptions of the organization’s values, need fulfillment and employee engagement. Engaging leadership is a recent leadership concept drawing on self-determination theory, specifically on the fulfillment of the basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We expected engaging leadership to associate with employees perceiving the values of their organization as more intrinsic (e.g., care for others, contributing to making the world a better place, stimulating personal growth), which would satisfy employees’ basic psychological needs and fuel work engagement, rather than as extrinsic (financial success, power, status). Study 1 detailed the model using a cross-sectional study design (N = 436), and, as expected, structural equation modeling identified a positive path from leadership to work engagement via perceived intrinsic organizational values and subsequent satisfaction of the need for autonomy. Engaging leadership associated negatively with extrinsic organizational values. Study 2 corroborated outcomes of study 1 through a longitudinal study across three time-points (N = 69) in a cross-lagged panel model and found specific directionality from leadership to perceived intrinsic values. Implications for leadership and motivation are discussed.

Read the full article as appeared in Human Resource Development Quarterly (HRDQ)

The present quasi-experimental study tested the business impact of a leadership development program focusing on psychological well-being through the satisfaction of basic psychological needs. Based on the concept of engaging leadership and self-determination theory, the 8-month program targeted midlevel team leaders of the customer fulfilment center of a health systems multinational organization. The program was designed in co-creation between senior leadership and the team leaders that participated in the program. Outcomes showed positive business results through significant increases in a preselected key performance indicator and decreased employee absenteeism. Through changes in autonomy satisfaction and intrinsic motivation, the team leaders (N = 14) benefitted in a moderate to very large extent relative to a similar control group (N = 52). In contrast, team members (N = 148) displayed no such benefits. Specifically, higher levels of autonomy satisfaction are said to lead to higher levels of psychological well-being and motivation. Still, the link with business performance is absent in most organizational studies within self-determination theory, making the present study one of the first to fill this gap. The study discloses the program design, compares the effects to a relevant control group, evaluates the lessons learned, and provides practical suggestions.

Read the full article as appeared in Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health

The present thesis aimed to examine the potential beneficial effects of leadership, purpose, and values from the perspective of human motivation as defined in self-determination theory. As hypothesized, we found that engaging leadership, embracing and communicating a higher purpose, and paying careful attention to employee value perceptions enhance work engagement and motivation through the satisfaction of basic psychological needs. Need satisfaction, specifically autonomy satisfaction, explained over 55% of the variance in employee motivation and engagement. The studies in this thesis identified engaging leadership and purpose as antecedents to work engagement. Additionally, engaging leadership predicted employee’s intrinsic value perceptions. Taken together, these outcomes underscore the fundamental role of need satisfaction as a linking pin between leadership-purpose-values and work engagement.

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Utrecht University Repository

Summary / samenvatting

Motivation lies at the core of human behavior. It explains why we do what we do. With this dissertation, we seek an explanation for the positive influence of leadership, a corporate purpose, and values ​​on employee engagement. Engaged employees derive energy from their work, are dedicated, and display higher psychological well-being and performance. Our research identifies motivation – a theory of why we do what we do – as an underlying mechanism linking leadership with positive outcomes. Leadership at the service of motivation boosts engagement and serves the need for self-determination and meaning. A corporate purpose embracing all stakeholders instead of just the shareholders positively affects motivation and engagement; Employees identify with an inspiring mission and vision. Corporate values ​​aimed at contributing to a better world reinforce this even further. Likewise, a work environment with room for personal and professional growth helps people to develop and feel a sense of purpose.

This research into motivation as the underlying mechanism of leadership, corporate goals, and values ​​is important for three reasons. First, motivation as an underlying and explanatory mechanism receives little or no attention in academic leadership studies. Neither do sustainable corporate goals and intrinsic values. Leadership in organizations is often equated with economic performance and assumes a direct relationship between leadership, performance, and employee engagement. Leadership concepts such as transformational, authentic, ethical, and spiritual leadership are assessed against that background of effectiveness. Far less attention is paid to the underlying psychological mechanism that could explain the link between leadership and positive outcomes such as performance and engagement.

Second, self-realization, or realizing one’s potential, through work has come to play an increasingly important role in people’s lives. The need for self-realization is an expression of the Western ideal of authenticity and self-determination. It has become an essential aspect of our culture of individualism, recognition of identity, and the search for meaning. This sociocultural development makes it essential to better understand the psychological process underlying the relationship between leadership and engagement. More than the direct relationship between leadership and outcomes, studying the underlying psychological process may provide insights in how to deal with changing value patterns and aspirations. It is essential that those insights translate into leadership and that leaders recognize and acknowledge changing needs. Especially for younger generations, self-realization, purpose, significance, and sustainability are matters of great importance.

Third, there exists an intrinsic tension between people’s need for self-determination on the one hand and the prevailing corporate governance model on the other. Most organizations are traditionally and mechanically founded on prediction and control values, which ​​contrast with the increasing need for self-direction, autonomy, and meaningfulness. This tension is exacerbated by the dominance of shareholder value and the so-called financialization of the economy. Neoliberalism has left deep marks over the past 40 years in terms of growing economic inequality, inequality of opportunity, and the depletion of human and natural resources. By way of illustration, top managers’ incomes rose sharply over the period 1973–2014, while ordinary employees’ incomes increased only marginally over the same period, against a higher average number of hours worked and higher labor productivity (72%)1. Additionally, work-related psychosocial stress and burnout have shown an upward trend for years.

Several studies point to a social psychological theory of motivation, the self-determination theory, to explain the link between leadership and engagement. Application of this theory in empirical research helps explain a larger part of the variance in employee engagement than the direct relationship of leadership and engagement. And that makes sense. Leadership behaviors have a psychological effect on employees and influence performance and engagement through those psychological effects. So, if we are looking to explain the effectiveness of a leadership concept, it makes sense to look at the psychological effects of leadership on employees rather than just employee performance. Studying this underlying psychological process can yield knowledge and insight into why a particular approach leads to good outcomes. This could support the development of work environments in which people can grow and develop, find meaning through contributing to a broader purpose, and experience high psychological well-being and low psychosocial stress.

The core of self-determination theory

Central to self-determination theory is the idea that people are active organisms who are naturally focused on growth and development in relation to their environment and who actively integrate all kinds of life experiences into their sense of self. This perspective on human development stresses the dynamics of the social context: how we interact and relate, what our social rules are, and how we experience and integrate these with the self. The social context of work is formed by the organization, colleagues, supervisors, customers, and suppliers: anyone you interact with because of your work. If the work context is positive and supportive of the individual, then the work environment stimulates personal growth and development, well-being, and performance.

Types of motivation

What is motivation, and how does it work? What drives our behavior? These are questions that self-determination theory tries to answer. Part of our behavior stems from within. We willingly and wholeheartedly engage in activities that we experience as fun, interesting, or exciting. No one has to encourage us. We do it because doing the activity is inherently fulfilling. If sports, painting, or research is your passion, you don’t need anyone to encourage you to engage in it. This phenomenon is called intrinsic motivation. Sometimes it is even so pleasurable that we become absorbed in the activity and forget about time; people get into “flow.” Nothing new so far.

What distinguishes self-determination theory is that it does not emphasize the strength of the motivation but rather its quality through a typology of motivation. Intrinsic motivation is part of this typology. But not all motivation comes from within. A considerable part of our (working) life is regulated by extrinsic stimuli. This regulation is from without. For example, working in exchange for a reward, meeting task requirements, following rules and procedures, and working within set frameworks. Also, company objectives and values ​​are usually externally incited.

Employees can identify with some parts of extrinsic regulations. For example, employees can identify with an organizational objective to contribute to a greater good for the benefit of others, or to sustainability. An example of the first is Philips’ corporate objective. This company has set itself the goal of improving people’s lives through meaningful innovation, and it consistently propagates this. An example of the second is the American clothing brand Patagonia, which strives to implement environment-friendly and sustainable solutions. The company emphatically wants to play a pioneering role and puts its money where its mouth is. This attracts employees who identify with that objective and the associated values. Leadership plays a vital role in this. If you ask employees why they work for such a company, they say, for example: “because I think it is important to contribute to this goal,” or “because it is in line with my personal values.” Even though the organizational goal comes “from the outside,” it leads to a higher quality motivation through identification with that goal: internalization. In self-determination theory, this type of positive motivation is summarized, together with intrinsic motivation, as autonomous motivation. Autonomous motivation supports feelings of meaningfulness and leads to greater well-being and engagement, as well as to more creativity, perseverance, initiative, and self-direction. The power of autonomous motivation is that employees focus on the work itself; it enhances the motivational energy for work. After all, the work is important and valuable, but also fun, interesting, and exciting.

Other forms of extrinsic regulation are internalized less well, poorly, or not at all. Examples are various forms of reward and punishment. The consequence of such extrinsic regulation is that the employee’s behavior shifts toward the extrinsic stimulus and away from the work itself. It becomes more critical to avoid a negative consequence or obtain a positive reward, such as a good assessment, a promotion, or a salary increase. This type of motivation can be experienced as compelling and controlling, and is therefore called controlled motivation. In a work environment with controlled motivation, it is to be expected that employees are less enterprising and creative and show a more cautious attitude. This form of motivation relates negatively to well-being and engagement. If the work environment is too controlling, feelings of powerlessness and meaninglessness arise, which give rise to amotivation.

Three basic psychological needs

Self-determination theory is best known for the formulation of three basic psychological needs. These are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Fulfilling these basic needs leads to optimal well-being, creativity, involvement, motivation, self-direction, and (therefore) engagement. They are called basic needs because, just like the biological need for air, water, and food, they are necessities without which people do not function or function less well.

Autonomy is the need to be able to influence what you are doing or involved in. Being able to direct relevant aspects of the work yourself contributes to the satisfaction of this need. Competence is about the feeling of being good at something and being effective within the environment in which you function. This need is nourished by a work environment where personal and professional development are stimulated, frequent (positive) feedback is given, and growth, exploration, and pleasure are important aspects. Relatedness is about the need to be a part of something and feel connected to others who care about you in a meaningful personal relationship. This need is met by making people feel at home in an atmosphere of care, togetherness, and psychological safety.

For some years, the flipside of fulfilling basic needs has been researched; needs can also be frustrated, for example, by a highly controlling work environment, by micro-management, or even by supervisors who actively thwart employees’ needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This leads to adverse outcomes such as psychosocial stress, job dissatisfaction, and staff turnover.

The central question and the studies’ findings

This thesis’s central question is how and to what extent the relationship between engagement and leadership, corporate goals, and values is explained by motivation. We conducted four empirical studies. In Chapter 2, the role of the satisfaction and frustration of basic psychological needs is studied in relation to engaging leadership and work engagement. The role of the frustration of basic psychological needs in engaging leadership had not been studied before. The concept of engaging leadership was introduced in 2015, and since then has been explored and tested in a growing number of studies. It is the first leadership concept to focus specifically on leadership behaviors that satisfy employees’ basic psychological needs. Thus, the emphasis is not so much on organizational outcomes and performance but rather on the importance of the underlying process of need satisfaction.

In the first study in Chapter 2 (N = 304), engaging leadership was expected to relate positively with need satisfaction and engagement and negatively with need frustration. This was confirmed. It also emerged that stimulating autonomy through engaging leadership seemed to be most effective because it promotes motivation and engagement and reduces negative forms of motivation, such as controlled motivation and amotivation. The frustration of basic needs, while relating to negative outcomes as expected, was not significantly associated with autonomous motivation.

Engaging leadership turned out to be indirectly related to engagement by fulfilling the basic need for autonomy. Subsequently, we found that the basic psychological needs are best examined separately because of the different predictive relevance of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The satisfaction of the need for autonomy emerged as a better predictor of engagement than the satisfaction of competence and relatedness. This seems in agreement with the underlying theory that autonomy often precedes the fulfillment of competence and relatedness. In summary, we concluded from this first study that engaging leadership is more effective when it focuses on fulfilling basic psychological needs, because the knife of need satisfaction cuts both ways. It can lead both to higher autonomous motivation and engagement and to lower negative aspects of motivation. Simultaneously, lower frustration of basic needs is mainly associated with a reduction in negative aspects, and not so much with positive motivation and engagement.

In Chapter 3, the role of a corporate purpose is investigated in a second study. We took the existing mission and vision of a multinational company as a starting point and examined the impact on engagement and autonomous motivation. The present mission and vision met the definition of a higher purpose, as described in the stakeholder theory. This means that the mission and vision serve a broader social purpose and specify how to contribute to that goal. Stakeholders were customers, society, employees, sustainability, and shareholders. We investigated to what extent this mission and vision were experienced as inspiring by employees and to what extent employees felt they were actively contributing to it through their work.

The second study (N = 270) shows that a broader business objective has a positive effect on engagement over time. Employees who identify with this higher goal and feel that they contribute to it are more engaged. For autonomous motivation, the results were less precise. In contrast with the study’s cross-sectional part, the analysis over several time points identified no explanatory role for autonomous motivation. The cross-sectional part of the study showed that autonomous motivation explained 56% of the variance in engagement, while controlled motivation and amotivation played no role.

The second study concluded that a higher corporate goal predicts engagement. The more complex role of autonomous motivation may indicate that a higher corporate purpose is primarily attractive to employees who already possess higher autonomous motivation and identify with the corporate purpose. This interpretation supports the common belief that a higher corporate purpose may attract talent and new generations who bring different value aspirations.

Chapter 4 discusses how employees experience a company’s values and the influence of engaging leadership on these values. Subsequently, the impact on employee engagement and the explanatory value of satisfaction of needs was examined. We distinguished different types of values: on the one hand, more universal, intrinsic values ​​such as caring for each other, contributing to a better world, and personal growth and development; on the other hand, more extrinsic values, such as gaining social status, having power and influence over others, and financial success. We expected engaging leadership to be positively related to intrinsic values ​​and negatively related to extrinsic values. We also expected that intrinsic values ​​would positively correlate with need satisfaction, in contrast to extrinsic values. Taken together, we expected that intrinsic values ​​and needs satisfaction would explain the relationship between leadership and engagement.

The third study (N = 436) shows a positive association between leadership and employee engagement through intrinsic value perceptions and need satisfaction. In contrast, we found a negative relationship with extrinsic value perceptions. The analysis over several time points confirmed the direction from engaging leadership to intrinsic value perceptions. Engaging leadership influences how employees experience the organization. When intrinsic values ​​prevail, this has a positive effect on engagement. Together with the fulfillment of basic needs, it explained more than 55% of the variance in work engagement.

Finally, we tested the effects of a leadership development program in an intervention study (Chapter 5), and compared the outcomes to a control group that received no intervention. The program was co-created by the program participants (middle management team leaders) and their executives. Co-creation means that different stakeholders jointly determine a common course or collaborate to solve a problem. In this co-creation phase, the program’s objectives were defined: improved company results (business performance) according to a predetermined metric or key performance indicator (KPI), lower absenteeism, and higher autonomy satisfaction and intrinsic motivation. The program taught the team leaders (N = 14) the principles of engaging leadership and needs satisfaction in several one-day training sessions spread over eight months. In between, the participants were offered peer-consultation (a specific discussion method for groups) and one-on-one coaching. The leadership program was also expected to promote the team members’ (N = 148) autonomy and motivation by allowing the team leaders’ positive effects to trickle down to the team members. The control group (52 team leaders and 218 team members) only attended a presentation explaining engaging leadership and needs satisfaction. To be able to assess the effects of the program, a questionnaire was administered to the team leaders and the employees of the intervention and control groups before and after the program. The business goals and absenteeism were tracked over a longer period so that six months after the program we could examine whether the results were lasting.

The post-program measurement showed a significant increase in the productivity and financial performance of the intervention group. This increase continued in the subsequent period. Absence due to sickness within the intervention group decreased significantly and also continued after the program ended. The team leaders who participated in the program showed a substantial increase in autonomy satisfaction and intrinsic motivation. However, the projected trickle-down effect of autonomy and motivation from team leaders to employees did not materialize, despite the teams’ lower absenteeism and higher productivity. One of the intervention study’s learning points is that actively involving team members in co-creation and implementation may further support the program’s positive effects.

In summary, this intervention study shows that it is possible to achieve positive business results, lower absenteeism, and higher motivation and autonomy satisfaction through a leadership program. Linking the program to a concrete business goal made the program relevant to the participants. The joint drafting of that specific goal generated support and involvement. In addition, embedding these goals in the leadership program provided a clear context within which the goals had to be achieved, and provided the participants with the knowledge and tools needed to achieve the goals set.

Overall, the four studies show that fulfilling basic psychological needs plays an essential role in the relationship between leadership, corporate goals, values, ​​and engagement. The results also underline the importance of the underlying leadership process. Moreover, both the study of engaging leadership (Chapter 2) and the study of value perceptions (Chapter 4) showed that autonomy satisfaction plays a central role in engagement. Leadership, business objectives, and values ​​complement each other and should be seen as a whole (Chapter 1). Therefore, leadership studies should pay more attention to corporate objectives and values. Studies by business schools have already shown how broader and sustainable business objectives that incorporate all stakeholders contribute to financial results. Studies of corporate governance emphasize that broadening the corporate objective benefits sustainability, social responsibility, innovation, and profitability in the long term. Additionally, the studies in this thesis show that corporate purpose and values ​​are essential for employee motivation and engagement.

Suggestions for further research

Several suggestions for further research are made. As assumed in the self-determination theory, the dynamics in the relationship between managers and employees should receive more attention. For example, the concrete exchanges between leaders and employees in the conversations they have with each other could be studied. By studying these exchanges, the core of self-determination theory can be tested in a practical sense. After all, motivation results from the exchange between individuals and their environment, and the psychological effects of that exchange. Certain conversations will have a positive effect on motivation and engagement. Knowledge about the specific characteristics of that interaction could offer concrete tools for promoting autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Specifically, researchers could investigate discussions about the company’s corporate purpose and associated values ​​and how this dialogue best contributes to motivation and engagement.

Another suggestion is to take a broader look at the effects of business objectives by drawing up a typology of different objectives and examining the extent to which certain purposes contribute to motivation and engagement; For example, by comparing the impact of companies with a shareholder perspective with the impact of companies with a more sustainable corporate objective. The effects of these different objectives on feelings of personal significance could be examined, given that meaningfulness and self-realization through work play an increasingly central role in people’s lives.

Practical implications

This thesis’s studies show that motivation explains a lot about the relationship between leadership, corporate objectives, values, ​​and engagement. The studies say less about the practical application of motivation in daily leadership situations. The organization, managers, and employees are closely intertwined. The quality and dynamics of their connection explain an important part of the outcomes. It is not just managers’ behavior that determines motivation and engagement, but also how managers and employees interact.

Basic needs can be fulfilled by actively involving employees in meaningful dialogue. For example, autonomy can be promoted by explaining why a certain task or action is relevant, listening carefully to what employees think, and creating the space they need to form their own opinions. More than talking, telling, and instructing, leaders should aim to put the subject in a clear context, listen, and ask open questions, and not steer too much toward a particular outcome. One of the most effective ways to promote competence is to give frequent (positive) feedback. The need for relatedness can be fulfilled by, among other things, showing genuine interest and creating a sense of openness and security. Conversations about the company’s corporate purpose and values ​​can also help employees feel more connected to the company and to each other, and can reinforce their sense of meaningfulness and significance.


This dissertation investigated the influence of leadership, corporate goals, and values ​​on engagement, and the role of motivation in this relationship. As expected, we found that engaging leadership, embracing a higher purpose, and heeding employees’ value perceptions promote motivation and engagement by fulfilling basic psychological needs. Need satisfaction – especially the fulfillment of autonomy – explained more than half of the variance in engagement. Motivation, as described in self-determination theory, is essential in obtaining favorable outcomes. Structural attention to meeting the need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness contributes to employee well-being and performance.

The essence of motivation as a linking and explanatory factor in the relationship between leadership and engagement shows that leadership is not primarily about a leader’s character traits and behavior. Leadership is much more about creating the social, psychological, and material context in which people can perform optimally. In the right context, people do not need to be motivated, but motivate themselves and each other. Instead of blaming low motivation on employees, one should look carefully at the leadership context and the dynamics within which people have to find their motivation. Often one will find a tension between the management model and its effects on motivation through the fulfillment or frustration of basic psychological needs. The ability to recreate that dynamic through validation and acknowledgment are essential aspects of effective leadership. They lead to healthy organizations with higher employee well-being, more creativity, better performance, and higher levels of autonomous motivation and engagement.

Work can meet people’s need for self-realization. Maslow already concluded this in 1962. Now, almost 60 years later, self-realization and finding meaning through work have only become more central. Therewith,  importance for organizations to support employees in self-realization and finding meaning through work has increased. And despite many experiments with other ways of governance, operational control, and the creation of inspiring work environments, the traditional hierarchical model of prediction and control is still dominant. Managing shareholder value is also still central. With the studies in this thesis, we hope to have contributed to the development of insights and knowledge about work environments in which people’s basic psychological needs are met and people can find a basis for meaning and dignity.

1 Stiglitz, J. E. (2016). Inequality and economic growth. In M. Jacobs & M. Mazzucato (eds.), Rethinking Capitalism (pp. 134–155). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Met dit proefschrift zoeken we een verklaring voor de positieve invloed van leiderschap, ondernemingsdoelstellingen en waarden op de bevlogenheid van werknemers. Bevlogen medewerkers ontlenen energie aan hun werk, gaan erin op en zijn eraan toegewijd. Daarbij vertonen ze een hoog psychologisch welzijn en dragen ze bij aan het succes van de onderneming. We hebben gevonden dat motivatie – een theorie over waarom we doen wat we doen – meer dan de helft van die verklaring voor bevlogenheid levert. Dat is veel. Motivatie, zo bevestigt het onderzoek, is een onderliggend mechanisme dat leiderschap verbindt met positieve uitkomsten; Als het leiderschap binnen een organisatie zich ten dienste stelt van motivatie kun je bevlogenheid positief beïnvloeden. En een ondernemingsdoelstelling (purpose) die zich richt op alle belanghebbenden in plaats van alleen op de aandeelhouders, werkt positief uit op motivatie en bevlogenheid van werknemers. Ondernemingswaarden die zich daarbij ook richten op het bijdragen aan een betere wereld versterken dat nog verder. Evenals dat een werkomgeving waar ruimte is voor persoonlijke en professionele groei mensen helpt in hun ontwikkeling en gevoel van betekenisgeving.

Dit onderzoek naar motivatie als het onderliggende mechanisme en de relatie met leiderschap, ondernemingsdoelstellingen en waarden is belangrijk om een drietal redenen. In de eerste plaats omdat motivatie als onderliggend en verklarend mechanisme geen tot weinig aandacht krijgt in academische leiderschapsstudies, evenmin als duurzame ondernemingsdoelstellingen en intrinsieke waarden. Leiderschap in organisaties wordt veelal gelijkgesteld met economische prestaties; Er wordt een directe relatie verondersteld tussen leiderschap, prestaties en de bevlogenheid van medewerkers. Leiderschapsconcepten zoals transformationeel, authentiek, ethisch of spiritueel leiderschap worden dan ook tegen die achtergrond beoordeeld op hun effectiviteit. Er wordt veel minder gekeken naar wat het onderliggende psychologische mechanisme zou kunnen zijn dat het verband tussen leiderschap en positieve uitkomsten, zoals prestaties en bevlogenheid, zou kunnen verklaren.

In de tweede plaats omdat zelfrealisatie, oftewel het realiseren van je potentieel, via werk een steeds belangrijkere rol is gaan spelen in het leven van mensen. De behoefte aan zelfrealisatie is een uitdrukking van het fundamentele westerse ideaal van authenticiteit en zelfbeschikking dat de afgelopen decennia een uitgesproken onderdeel is geworden van onze cultuur van individualisme, erkenning van identiteit en de zoektocht naar betekenis. Deze sociaal-culturele ontwikkeling maakt het belangrijk om beter te begrijpen wat zich bij medewerkers afspeelt in de relatie tussen leiderschap en bevlogenheid. Meer dan de directe relatie tussen leiderschap en uitkomsten, kan bestudering van het onderliggende psychologische proces aanknopingspunten bieden om een betere aansluiting te vinden bij veranderende waardenpatronen en aspiraties. We denken dat het belangrijk is dat die inzichten zich vertalen naar het leiderschap binnen organisaties en dat organisaties veranderende behoeften herkennen en daarin voorzien. Zeker ook met het oog op jongere generaties die andere waarden en aspiraties meebrengen en voor wie zelfrealisatie en betekenisgeving, maar ook duurzaamheid van groot belang zijn.

In de derde plaats omdat er een intrinsieke spanning bestaat tussen enerzijds de behoefte aan zelfbeschikking van mensen en anderzijds het heersende besturingsmodel van ondernemingen. De meeste organisaties worden traditioneel en mechanisch geleid op basis van voorspelbaarheid en controle; Waarden die zich slecht verhouden met de toenemende behoefte aan zelfsturing, autonomie en betekenisgeving. Deze spanning wordt nog eens versterkt door de dominantie van aandeelhouderswaarde en de zogeheten financialisering van de economie. Het neoliberalisme heeft de afgelopen 40 jaar diepe sporen getrokken in termen van groeiende economisch ongelijkheid, kansenongelijkheid en de uitputting van menselijke en natuurlijke hulpbronnen. Ter illustratie: de inkomens van topmanagers zijn over de periode 1973-2014 zeer sterk gestegen, terwijl de inkomens van de gewone werknemers over diezelfde periode slechts marginaal omhooggingen, tegen een hoger gemiddeld aantal gewerkte uren en een hogere arbeidsproductiviteit (72%)1. Daarenboven vertonen werkgerelateerde psychosociale stress en burn-out al jaren een stijgende lijn.

Meerdere onderzoeken wijzen naar een sociaalpsychologische theorie over motivatie, de zelfdeterminatietheorie, om het verband tussen leiderschap en motivatie te verklaren. Gebleken is dat verschillen in bevlogenheid van medewerkers voor een groter deel verklaard worden met behulp van deze motivatietheorie dan door de directe relatie van verschillende leiderschapsconcepten met bevlogenheid. En eigenlijk is dat ook wel logisch. Een leiderschapsconcept, stijl en gedrag van leidinggevenden, heeft een psychologisch effect op medewerkers en beïnvloedt de prestaties en de bevlogenheid van de medewerkers via die psychologische effecten. Dus als we een verklaring zoeken voor de effectiviteit van een leiderschapsconcept, ligt het voor de hand om naar de psychologische effecten van leiderschap op medewerkers te kijken in plaats van enkel naar de prestaties. Wat de onderhavige studie naar dit onderliggende proces kan opleveren is kennis en inzicht over waarom een bepaalde aanpak tot goede uitkomsten leidt. Dat zou goede handvatten kunnen bieden om een werkomgeving te scheppen waarin mensen kunnen groeien en zich ontplooien, waarin ze zingeving vinden door bij te dragen aan een ondernemingsdoel dat verder gaat dan winstmaximalisatie en aandeelhouderswaarde, en waarin het psychologisch welzijn hoog is en de psychosociale stress laag.

De kern van zelfdeterminatietheorie

Centraal in zelfdeterminatietheorie staat het idee dat mensen actieve organismen zijn die van nature gericht zijn op groei en ontwikkeling in relatie met hun omgeving en die allerlei levenservaringen actief integreren in hun zelfbeeld. Dit perspectief op menselijke ontwikkeling stelt de dynamiek van de sociale context centraal: hoe gaan we met elkaar om, wat zijn die omgangsvormen en hoe beleven en integreren we die met het zelf. De sociale context van werk wordt gevormd door de organisatie, collega’s, leidinggevenden, klanten, leveranciers; Iedereen met wie je vanwege je werk contact hebt. Als de werkcontext positief en ondersteunend is aan het individu, dan stimuleert de werkomgeving persoonlijke groei en ontwikkeling en worden welzijn en prestaties bevorderd.

Soorten motivatie

Wat is motivatie en hoe werkt het? Wat drijft ons gedrag? Dit zijn vragen waarop zelfdeterminatietheorie een antwoord probeert te vinden. Een deel van ons gedrag wordt van binnenuit gestuurd, door onszelf. Dingen die we leuk, interessant of leerzaam vinden, doen we zonder dat iemand ons aan hoeft te sporen. De voldoening ligt in het doen van de activiteit zelf. Als sporten, schilderen of onderzoek doen je passie is, heb je niemand nodig die je aanmoedigt om lekker te gaan sporten, schilderen of onderzoek te doen. Dit verschijnsel wordt intrinsieke motivatie genoemd. Soms is het zelfs zo prettig dat we erin opgaan en de tijd vergeten—dan komen mensen in “flow”.  Tot zover weinig nieuws onder de zon.

Waar zelfdeterminatietheorie zich door onderscheidt is dat niet zozeer gekeken wordt naar de sterkte van de motivatie, maar naar de kwaliteit ervan, en wel met behulp van een typologie. Intrinsieke motivatie vormt daar een onderdeel van. Een groot deel van ons (werkende) leven wordt echter gevormd door extrinsieke prikkels die onze motivatie reguleren. Dat betekent dat deze regulatie van buitenaf wordt ingegeven. Bijvoorbeeld het werken in ruil voor een beloning, het voldoen aan taakvereisten, het volgen van regels en procedures en het werken binnen vastgestelde kaders. Maar ook ondernemingsdoelstellingen en waarden worden doorgaans van buitenaf ingegeven.

Met een deel van die extrinsieke regulatie kunnen werknemers zich goed vereenzelvigen of identificeren. Bijvoorbeeld een organisatiedoelstelling die zich richt op het bijdragen aan een groter goed ten behoeve van het welzijn van anderen of aan duurzaamheid. Een voorbeeld van het eerste is de organisatiedoelstelling van Philips. Dit bedrijf heeft zich ten doel gesteld om het leven van mensen te verbeteren door middel van medische innovatie en draagt dit consequent uit. Een voorbeeld van het tweede is het Amerikaanse kledingmerk Patagonia dat ernaar streeft om oplossingen te implementeren die het milieu en het klimaat duurzaam ontlasten. Het bedrijf wil nadrukkelijk een voortrekkersrol spelen en voegt ook echt de daad bij het woord. Dit trekt medewerkers aan die zich kunnen vereenzelvigen met die doelstelling en de bijbehorende waarden. Leiderschap speelt hierin een belangrijke rol. Als je medewerkers vraagt naar de reden waarom ze bij een dergelijk bedrijf werken zeggen ze bijvoorbeeld: “omdat ik het belangrijk vind om aan dit doel bij te dragen”, of “omdat dit in lijn ligt met mijn persoonlijke waarden”. Dus ondanks dat de organisatiedoelstelling ‘van buiten’ komt leidt het tot een kwalitatief hogere motivatie via vereenzelviging met dat doel; internalisatie. In zelfdeterminatietheorie wordt dit type positieve motivatie samen met intrinsieke motivatie samengevat onder de noemer autonome motivatie. Autonome motivatie ondersteunt gevoelens van betekenisgeving en leidt tot hoger welzijn en meer bevlogenheid. Maar ook tot meer creativiteit, volharding om het doel te realiseren, initiatief en zelfsturing. De kracht van autonome motivatie is dat medewerkers zich richten op het werk zelf; Het versterkt de motivationele energie voor het werk. Het werk is immers belangrijk en waardevol, maar ook leuk, interessant en leerzaam.

Andere vormen van extrinsieke regulatie worden minder goed, slecht of helemaal niet geïnternaliseerd. Voorbeelden daarvan zijn veel vormen van beloning en straf. Het gevolg van een dergelijke extrinsieke regulatie is dat het gedrag van de medewerker zich richt op de prikkel en minder op het werk zelf. Het wordt dan belangrijker om een negatieve consequentie te vermijden of om de positieve beloning te krijgen, zoals een goede beoordeling, een promotie of een salarisverhoging. Het is een type motivatie dat als dwingend en controlerend kan worden ervaren en wordt dan ook gecontroleerde motivatie genoemd. In een werkomgeving waar sprake is van gecontroleerde motivatie is het te verwachten dat medewerkers minder initiatiefrijk en creatief zijn en zich meer afwachtend opstellen. Deze vorm van motivatie hangt negatief samen met welzijn en bevlogenheid. Als de werkomgeving te dwingend is ontstaan gevoelens van machteloosheid en zinloosheid, hetgeen aanleiding vormt voor amotivatie.

Drie psychologische basisbehoeften

Zelfdeterminatietheorie staat het meest bekend om de formulering van drie psychologische basisbehoeften. Dit zijn autonomie, competentie en verbondenheid.

Het voldoen aan deze basisbehoeften leidt tot optimaal welzijn, creativiteit, betrokkenheid, motivatie, zelfredzaamheid en (dus) ook bevlogenheid. Het heten basisbehoeften omdat ze, net als de biologische behoeften aan lucht, water en voedsel, noodzaken zijn zonder welke mensen niet of minder goed functioneren. 

Autonomie is de behoefte van mensen om zelf invloed uit te kunnen oefenen op waar ze mee bezig zijn of bij betrokken zijn. Zelf sturing kunnen geven aan belangrijke aspecten in het werk draagt bij aan de bevrediging van deze behoefte. Competentie gaat over het gevoel ergens goed in te zijn en effectief te zijn binnen de omgeving waarin iemand functioneert. Deze behoefte wordt gevoed door een werkomgeving waar persoonlijke en professionele ontwikkeling gestimuleerd wordt, veelvuldig (positieve) feedback wordt gegeven en waarin groei, exploratie en plezier belangrijke aspecten zijn. Verbondenheid gaat over de behoefte om ergens deel van uit te maken en je verbonden te voelen met anderen die om je geven in een betekenisvolle persoonlijke relatie. In deze behoefte wordt voorzien door mensen zich thuis te laten voelen in een sfeer van zorg, saamhorigheid en psychologische veiligheid.

Sinds een aantal jaren wordt ook de keerzijde van de vervulling van basisbehoeften in kaart gebracht. Behoeften kunnen namelijk ook gefrustreerd worden, bijvoorbeeld door een sterk controlerende werkomgeving, micromanagement of zelfs door de behoeften aan autonomie, competentie en verbondenheid van medewerkers actief te dwarsbomen. Dit leidt tot negatieve uitkomsten, zoals psychosociale stress, ontevredenheid met het werk en personeelsverloop.

De centrale vraag en de bevindingen uit de studies

De centrale vraag van dit proefschrift is hoe en in welke mate de relatie tussen leiderschap, ondernemingsdoelstellingen en waarden met bevlogenheid verklaard wordt door motivatie. Daarvoor zijn vier empirische studies verricht. In Hoofdstuk 2 wordt de rol van satisfactie (bevrediging of voldoening) en frustratie van psychologische basisbehoeften bestudeerd in relatie tot bevlogen leiderschap (engaging leadership) en bevlogenheid voor het werk (work engagement). De rol van satisfactie van psychologische basisbehoeften door middel van bevlogen leiderschap is al eerder in kaart gebracht, maar de rol van frustratie van basisbehoeften nog niet. Het concept van bevlogen leiderschap is in 2015 geïntroduceerd en wordt in een groeiend aantal onderzoeken verkend en getoetst. Het is het eerste leiderschapsconcept dat zich specifiek richt op leiderschapsgedragingen die de psychologische basisbehoeften van medewerkers bevredigen. Daarmee is het een aantrekkelijk leiderschapsconcept, omdat niet zozeer de uitkomsten centraal staan, maar juist het belang van het onderliggende proces van behoeftensatisfactie wordt benadrukt in relatie tot de effecten op bevlogenheid.

In de eerste studie in Hoofdstuk 2 (N = 304) werd verwacht dat bevlogen leiderschap een positieve relatie zou hebben met behoeftensatisfactie en bevlogenheid, en een negatieve relatie met de frustratie van die behoeften. Dit bleek inderdaad het geval. Daarbij kwam tevens naar voren dat het stimuleren van autonomie via bevlogen leiderschap het meeste effectief leek te zijn, omdat het niet alleen motivatie en bevlogenheid bevordert, maar ook negatieve vormen van motivatie, zoals gecontroleerde motivatie en amotivatie, vermindert. De frustratie van basisbehoeften hing weliswaar samen met negatieve uitkomsten, zoals verwacht, maar vertoonde geen significant verband met autonome motivatie.

Bevlogen leiderschap bleek in sterke mate indirect samen te hangen met bevlogenheid via het voorzien in de basisbehoefte aan autonomie. Aansluitend kwam naar voren dat de basisbehoeften het best apart van elkaar kunnen worden onderzocht omdat de relevantie van autonomie, competentie en verbondenheid voor bevlogenheid van elkaar bleken te verschillen. Satisfactie van de behoefte aan autonomie is een belangrijkere voorspeller van bevlogenheid dan competentie en verbondenheid. Dit lijkt in overeenstemming te zijn met de onderliggende theorie die stelt dat satisfactie van de behoefte aan autonomie vaak aan de vervulling van competentie en verbondenheid voorafgaat. Samenvattend concludeerden we uit de eerste studie dat bevlogen leiderschap effectiever is als het zich richt op het vervullen van psychologische basisbehoeften omdat het mes dan aan twee kanten snijdt. Het kan leiden tot zowel hogere autonome motivatie en bevlogenheid alsook tot lagere negatieve aspecten van motivatie, terwijl een lagere frustratie van basisbehoeften vooral samenhangt met verlaging van negatieve aspecten, maar niet zozeer met positieve motivatie en bevlogenheid.

In Hoofdstuk 3 wordt de rol van een ondernemingsdoelstelling (corporate purpose) in een tweede studie onderzocht. Hiervoor zijn de bestaande missie en visie van een multinationale onderneming als uitgangspunt genomen en is gekeken naar de impact op bevlogenheid via autonome motivatie. De onderhavige missie en visie voldeden aan de definitie van een hoger doel (higher purpose) zoals beschreven in de stakeholder-theorie. Dat wil zeggen dat de missie en visie een breder maatschappelijk doel dienen en specificeren hoe aan dat doel wordt bijgedragen. Belanghebbenden die benoemd worden zijn de klanten, de samenleving, de medewerkers, duurzaamheid en de aandeelhouders. Er is onderzocht in welke mate deze missie en visie als inspirerend werden ervaren door medewerkers en in welke mate medewerkers vonden dat zij daar actief aan bijdroegen door hun werk.

De uitkomsten van de tweede studie (N = 270) laten zien dat een bredere ondernemingsdoelstelling een positief effect heeft op bevlogenheid, ook over meerdere momenten in de tijd. Concreet betekent dit dat werknemers die zich meer identificeren met dit hogere doel en ervaren dat zij eraan bijdragen, meer bevlogen zijn. Voor autonome motivatie waren de resultaten minder duidelijk, omdat bij de analyse over meerdere tijdsmomenten geen verklarende rol voor autonome motivatie kon worden vastgesteld, terwijl dit in het cross-sectionele deel van het onderzoek wel het geval was. Uit dat laatste onderdeel van de studie bleek dat autonome motivatie 56% van de variantie in bevlogenheid verklaarde, terwijl gecontroleerde motivatie en amotivatie geen rol van betekenis vervulden. De conclusie van de tweede studie luidt dat een hoger ondernemingsdoel positief samenhangt en zelfs voorspellend is voor bevlogenheid. De complexere rol van autonome motivatie zou erop kunnen duiden dat een hoger ondernemingsdoel voornamelijk aantrekkelijk is voor medewerkers die al over een hogere autonome motivatie beschikken en zich kunnen identificeren met de doelstelling van de onderneming. Deze interpretatie ondersteunt de veelgehoorde overtuiging dat een hoger ondernemingsdoel belangrijk kan zijn bij het aantrekken van talent en voor nieuwe generaties die andere waardenaspiraties meebrengen.

Hoofdstuk 4 behandelt hoe medewerkers de waarden van de onderneming ervaren en wat de invloed is van bevlogen leiderschap op deze waarden. Vervolgens is gekeken naar de impact op de bevlogenheid van medewerkers en de verklarende waarde daarbij van behoeftensatisfactie. Er wordt onderscheid gemaakt tussen verschillende soorten waarden. Aan de ene kant worden deze gevormd door meer universele, intrinsieke waarden zoals zorg hebben voor elkaar, een bijdrage leveren aan een betere wereld en persoonlijke groei en ontwikkeling. De andere kant van het spectrum wordt gevormd door meer extrinsieke waarden, zoals het verkrijgen van sociale status, het hebben van macht en invloed over anderen en financieel succes. We verwachtten dat bevlogen leiderschap positief samenhangt met intrinsieke waarden en negatief met extrinsieke waarden. Ook was de verwachting dat intrinsieke waarden een positief verband zouden vertonen met behoeftensatisfactie, dit in tegenstelling tot extrinsieke waarden. Tezamen genomen was de verwachting dat de combinatie van intrinsieke waarden en behoeftensatisfactie de relatie tussen leiderschap en bevlogenheid zou kunnen duiden.

De resultaten uit de derde studie (N = 436) laten een positieve associatie zien van leiderschap met de bevlogenheid van medewerkers via intrinsieke waardenpercepties en behoeftensatisfactie. Daarentegen was er een negatieve relatie met extrinsieke waardenpercepties. De analyse over meerdere tijdsmomenten bevestigde de volgorde van bevlogen leiderschap naar intrinsieke waardenpercepties. Bevlogen leiderschap beïnvloedt hoe medewerkers de organisatie ervaren. Als intrinsieke waarden prevaleren heeft dat een positief effect op de bevlogenheid. Samen met de vervulling van basisbehoeften verklaarde het meer dan 55% van de variantie in bevlogenheid.

Tot slot werd de uitwerking van een leiderschapsontwikkelingsprogramma getoetst in een interventiestudie (Hoofdstuk 5) in vergelijking met een controlegroep die geen interventie kreeg. Het programma werd ontwikkeld in co-creatie tussen de deelnemers aan het programma (middenkader teamleiders) en hun leidinggevenden. Co-creatie betekent dat verschillende belanghebbenden met elkaar in overleg een gezamenlijke koers bepalen of een probleem oplossen. In deze co-creatiefase werden de doelstellingen van het programma gedefinieerd: verbeterde ondernemingsresultaten (business performance) op een vooraf vastgestelde parameter, ofwel key performance indicator (KPI), lager ziekteverzuim en hogere satisfactie van de behoefte aan autonomie en intrinsieke motivatie. Het programma leerde de teamleiders (N = 14) de principes van bevlogen leiderschap en behoeftensatisfactie in een aantal trainingssessies van één dag, verspreid over acht maanden. Tussendoor kregen de deelnemers intervisie (een specifieke gespreksmethode voor groepen) en één-op-één coaching aangeboden. Verwacht werd dat het leiderschapsprogramma ook de autonomie en motivatie van de teamleden (N = 148) zou bevorderen doordat de positieve effecten van de teamleiders zouden doorsijpelen naar de teamleden. De controlegroep (52 teamleiders en 218 teamleden) ontving alleen een presentatie waarin bevlogen leiderschap en behoeftensatisfactie werden uitgelegd. Om de effecten van het programma te kunnen beoordelen werd voorafgaand aan en na afloop van het programma een vragenlijst afgenomen onder de teamleiders en de medewerkers van de interventie- en de controlegroep. De businessdoelen en het ziekteverzuim werden over een langere periode bijgehouden, zodat ook zes maanden na afloop bekeken kon worden of de resultaten beklijfden.

De meting na afloop van het programma liet een significante stijging zien in de productiviteit en de financiële prestaties van de interventiegroep. Deze stijging zette zich door in de daaropvolgende periode. Het ziekteverzuim binnen de interventiegroep ging significant omlaag en zette zich eveneens door na afloop van het programma. De teamleiders die deelnamen aan het programma vertoonden een substantiële stijging in satisfactie van de behoefte aan autonomie en in intrinsieke motivatie. Het verwachte doorsijpeleffect van autonomie en motivatie van teamleiders naar de medewerkers bleef echter uit, ondanks het lagere verzuim en de hogere productiviteit van de teams. Een van de leeraspecten uit de interventiestudie is dan ook dat het actief betrekken van teamleden in de co-creatiefase en de uitvoeringsfase de positieve effecten van het programma verder zou kunnen ondersteunen.

Samenvattend laat deze interventiestudie zien dat het mogelijk is om positieve bedrijfsresultaten te behalen in combinatie met een lager ziekteverzuim en hogere motivatie en satisfactie van autonomie door middel van een leiderschapsprogramma. De koppeling van het programma aan een concreet bedrijfsdoel maakte het programma relevant voor de deelnemers. Het gezamenlijk opstellen van dat specifieke doel zorgde voor draagvlak en betrokkenheid. Daarenboven zorgde de inbedding van deze doelen in het leiderschapsprogramma voor een heldere context waarbinnen de doelen behaald moesten worden en voorzag het de deelnemers van de kennis en instrumenten die nodig waren om de gestelde doelen te realiseren.

Over het geheel genomen laten de vier studies zien dat het vervullen van de psychologische basisbehoeften inderdaad een essentiële rol speelt in de relatie tussen leiderschap, ondernemingsdoelstellingen, waarden en bevlogenheid. De resultaten onderschrijven tevens het belang van het onderliggende proces van leiderschap. Bovendien bleek zowel uit de studie naar bevlogen leiderschap (Hoofdstuk 2), als uit de studie naar waardenpercepties (Hoofdstuk 4) dat satisfactie van de behoefte aan autonomie een centrale rol speelt in relatie tot bevlogenheid. Ook is duidelijk geworden dat leiderschap, ondernemingsdoelstellingen en waarden elkaar goed aanvullen en meer als één geheel zouden moeten worden gezien (Hoofdstuk 1). Er zou in leiderschapsstudies dan ook meer aandacht aan ondernemingsdoelstellingen en waarden moeten worden besteed. Studies van businessscholen toonden reeds aan dat een hogere en duurzame ondernemingsdoelstelling bijdraagt aan de financiële resultaten van ondernemingen, ook op langere termijn. Juridische, bestuurskundige en economische studies naar ondernemingsbestuur benadrukken dat verbreding van de ondernemingsdoelstelling ten bate komt van duurzaamheid, maatschappelijke verantwoordelijkheid, innovatie en winstgevendheid op langere termijn. In aanvulling daarop laten de studies in dit proefschrift zien dat ondernemingsdoelstellingen en waarden ook voor de motivatie en bevlogenheid van medewerkers essentieel zijn.

Suggesties voor verder onderzoek

Er zijn een aantal suggesties gedaan voor vervolgonderzoek. De dynamiek in de relatie tussen leidinggevenden en medewerkers, zoals verondersteld in zelfdeterminatietheorie zou meer aandacht dienen te krijgen. Dit kan bijvoorbeeld door de concrete uitwisseling tussen leidinggevenden en medewerkers te onderzoeken in de gesprekken die ze met elkaar hebben. Hiermee kan de kern van zelfdeterminatietheorie ook in praktische zin worden getoetst. Immers, motivatie is een resultaat van de uitwisseling tussen het individu en zijn of haar omgeving en het psychologische effect daarvan op het individu. Verwacht wordt dat bepaalde gesprekken een positieve uitwerking hebben op motivatie en bevlogenheid. Kennis over de specifieke kenmerken van die interactie zouden concrete handvatten kunnen bieden aan leidinggevenden over hoe autonomie, competentie en verbondenheid het best bevorderd kunnen worden. Specifiek zou ook gekeken kunnen worden naar de gesprekken over het ondernemingsdoel en de bijbehorende waarden van de onderneming en op welke manier deze dialoog het beste bijdraagt aan motivatie en bevlogenheid.

Een andere suggestie is om breder te kijken naar de effecten van ondernemingsdoelstellingen door een typologie van verschillende doelstellingen op te stellen en te onderzoeken in welke mate bepaalde doelstellingen wel bijdragen aan motivatie en bevlogenheid en andere juist niet. Bijvoorbeeld door de effecten van ondernemingen met een aandeelhoudersperspectief te vergelijken met de impact van ondernemingen met een meer duurzame ondernemingsdoelstelling. Aanvullend zou onderzocht kunnen worden wat de effecten van die verschillende doelstellingen zijn op persoonlijke zingeving, aangezien betekenisgeving en zelfrealisatie door werk een steeds centralere plaats innemen.

Praktische implicaties

Uit de studies in dit proefschrift komt naar voren dat motivatie veel verklaart over de relatie tussen leiderschap, ondernemingsdoelstellingen, waarden en bevlogenheid. De studies zeggen minder over hoe dat in de praktijk vorm kan krijgen. De organisatie, leidinggevenden en medewerkers zijn nauw met elkaar verweven. De kwaliteit en de dynamiek van die verbinding verklaart een belangrijk deel van de uitkomsten. Het is dus niet zozeer alleen het gedrag van leidinggevenden dat bepalend is voor motivatie en bevlogenheid, maar ook hoe leidinggevenden en medewerkers met elkaar omgaan.

Door medewerkers actief te betrekken in een betekenisvolle dialoog kunnen de basisbehoeften beter worden vervuld. Zo kan autonomie bevorderd worden door een heldere reden aan te geven waarom een bepaalde taak of actie van belang is, door goed te luisteren naar wat medewerkers vinden en ruimte te bieden om daar hun eigen mening over te vormen. Meer dan praten, vertellen en instrueren zou het gedrag gericht moeten zijn om het onderwerp in een duidelijke context te plaatsen, te luisteren, open vragen te stellen en niet al te zeer te sturen op een bepaalde uitkomst. Een van de meest effectieve manieren om competentie te bevorderen is het veelvuldig geven van (positieve) feedback. De behoefte aan verbondenheid kan vervuld worden door onder meer oprechte interesse te tonen en een gevoel van openheid en veiligheid te scheppen. Ook gesprekken over de ondernemingsdoelstelling en de waarden van de onderneming kunnen medewerkers helpen om zich meer verbonden te voelen met de onderneming en met elkaar en kunnen het gevoel van betekenisgeving en significantie versterken.


Dit proefschrift onderzocht de invloed van leiderschap, ondernemingsdoelstellingen en waarden op bevlogenheid en de rol van motivatie daarbij. Zoals verwacht vonden we dat bevlogen leiderschap, higher purpose en aandacht van de leidinggevende voor de waardenpercepties van medewerkers motivatie en bevlogenheid bevorderen door het vervullen van psychologische basisbehoeften. Behoeftensatisfactie – en specifiek het vervullen van de behoefte aan autonomie – verklaarde meer dan de helft van het verschil in bevlogenheid. Motivatie zoals beschreven in zelfdeterminatietheorie vormt een essentieel onderdeel voor het verkrijgen van positieve uitkomsten. Structurele aandacht voor het voldoen aan de behoefte aan autonomie, competentie en verbondenheid draagt bij aan het welzijn en de prestaties van medewerkers.

De essentie van motivatie als verbindende en verklarende factor voor de relatie tussen leiderschap en bevlogenheid laat ook zien dat leiderschap niet zozeer gaat over de leider als persoon of over zijn of haar karaktereigenschappen en gedrag in een directe relatie met de uitkomsten. Leiderschap gaat veel meer over het scheppen van de sociale, psychologische en materiele context waarbinnen mensen optimaal kunnen presteren. In de juiste context hoeven mensen niet gemotiveerd te worden, maar motiveren zij zichzelf en elkaar. Als mensen niet gemotiveerd zijn zou men, in plaats van het aan de medewerkers te wijten, goed moeten kijken naar de leiderschapscontext en de dynamiek waarbinnen mensen hun motivatie moeten vinden. Vaak zal blijken dat er spanning bestaat tussen het besturingsmodel en het effect daarvan op motivatie enerzijds en bevlogenheid via het vervullen of juist frustreren van psychologische basisbehoeften anderzijds. Het vermogen om die dynamiek te herkennen en daar goed op in te spelen zijn belangrijke aspecten van effectief leiderschap en kan leiden tot gezonde organisaties met beter welzijn voor medewerkers, meer creativiteit, betere prestaties en hogere niveaus van autonome motivatie en bevlogenheid.

Werk kan voldoen aan de behoefte aan zelfrealisatie van mensen. Maslow concludeerde dit al in 1962. Nu, bijna 60 jaar later, zijn zelfrealisatie en zingeving door werk alleen nog maar belangrijker geworden. Daarmee is voor organisaties het belang toegenomen om daarin te voorzien. En ondanks dat er veel experimenten lopen met andere manieren van governance, operationele besturing en inspirerende werkomgevingen is het traditionele hiërarchische model van voorspelbaarheid en controle nog steeds dominant. Ook het sturen op aandeelhouderswaarde staat nog steeds centraal. Wij hopen met de studies in dit proefschrift een bijdrage te hebben geleverd aan de ontwikkeling van inzichten en kennis over een werkomgeving waarin in de psychologische basisbehoeften van mensen wordt voorzien en waar mensen een basis kunnen vinden voor een betekenisvol en waardig bestaan.

1 Stiglitz, J.E. (2016). Inequality and economic growth. In Jacobs M., & Mazzucato, M. (Eds.). Rethinking Capitalism. (pp. 134 – 155). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

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