7 ways leaders regain their drive

Oct. 26, 2012 | by Thom Rainer

In my last post, I shared insights from our organization’s interviews with leaders who, at some point in their careers, lost their drive. I summarized the reasons behind their diminishing drive in eight points, ranked by frequency of response.

In this blog, I share with you the results of our follow-up question: "What did you do to regain your drive once you lost it?" As a reminder, we conducted these interviews over a one-year period during informal conversations with leaders. After distilling their responses, I came up with seven of the keys these leaders used to "jump start" themselves in their position of influence.

Again, this methodology is anecdotal rather than scientific, with responses listed in order of frequency. Most leaders listed one or two ways they regained their drive; few gave three or more. I hope you will find their responses informative, helpful and encouraging.

Reasons for the renaissance

1. They started viewing their work with a greater purpose.

These leaders looked at the good their organizations accomplished. They began intentionally focusing on that greater purpose. Thus, their work became a mission and a paycheck turned into a tertiary motivation, ranked behind getting the job done.

2. They confronted others in the organization that appeared to not value their work.

Most of the time they approached a superior in the organization, although not always. Whoever they talked to, they had honest conversation with their bosses and peers. Sometimes they discovered that others held a faulty perspective of their inferiority. However, many times the critics were right, so the leaders sought constructive criticism of ways they could improve their contribution to the organization. We further learned from some of these leaders that they felt liberated confronting these challenges head on. Many admitted they had been in denial about their shortcomings.

3. They sought a new position in the organization.

Some realized that their loss of drive stemmed from their status as a "bad fit" in their position. Some took a position that better matched their abilities and competencies, and a few even accepted a pay cut and demotion in order to have a better-fitting, more rewarding position.

4. They left the organization.

Several leaders told us that they simply were not a match for the organization, so they drew up an exit plan to find a job that better suited them. When they did, their drive and enthusiasm returned.

5. They stopped focusing on the critics.

Some leaders felt drained by persistent criticism, whether from inside or outside of the organization. Drained emotionally and physically, they had lost their drive. They started to regain it when they stopped paying so much attention to the critics, especially if these naysayers had no interest in helping the leader do a better job.

6. They sought help for physical needs.

I was surprised at the number who told us they had discovered physical factors behind their loss of drive—sometimes something as simple as being out of shape. Others sought medical advice and discovered they had significant health problems. Once they addressed them, their drive returned.

7. They confronted their own entitlement mentality and negativity.

Some leaders told us that they had been their own worst enemies. At a time when Mitt Romney’s comment about the "47 percent" possessing an entitlement mentality sparked so much controversy, it’s hard to imagine leaders feeling that way, but some admitted they had. Others were negative about most anything, including the leader who labeled his change "an attitude adjustment revival." He said the toughest step was the first: admitting that he really was the problem. Once he did, he discovered a renewed drive and joy for his work.

Look in the mirror

Almost all leaders go through lulls and tough periods during their careers, whether they are in early life, midlife or older. These men and women we interviewed taught me that good leaders look in the mirror regularly, and get honest feedback from people they trust. Those two perspectives will likely show us why we are losing our drive and, more importantly, how we can regain it.


Thomas Rainer is the president and CEO LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a church and denominational consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of nearly two dozen books.



Topics: Administration , Leadership , Ministry , Research , Teaching Resources

Thom Rainer / Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 24 books, including his most recent release, “I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian.” His 2013 book, “I Am a Church Member,” recently passed the one million mark in sales.

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