I keep seeing articles and blog posts about how to stay motivated and motivate others. There’s talk about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, carrots and sticks, inspiration, rewards, goals, unpredictability, habits … all sorts of mumbo jumbo.

The latest nonsense is that business leaders need to find creative ways of making employees feel like they’re contributing to the company’s mission.

Did it ever occur to the purveyors of such brilliant advice that maybe, just maybe, it’s actually contributing to a purpose they believe in that motivates them, not feeling like they’re contributing.

If that gets you wondering, what about those low level or low-performing employees who don’t really have an impact, that’s simply further motivation to better themselves and move up. That incentivizes them to do great work, take on more responsibility and someday have an even greater impact and make a real difference.

Every day of my career — from the first day on the job as an engineer in 1980 to today — I’ve been motivated by the belief that my work has a beneficial impact. I’m constantly driven to achieve more and have an even greater impact. And the knowledge that I’ll be recognized and well-compensated for those achievements provides further incentive.

I believe that every single one of the thousands of great performers I’ve worked with over the decades felt more or less the same way.

Purpose, achievement, impact, recognition, compensation. That’s what motivates good employees to become better employees. That’s what motivates people to do great work. Motivation is not about perception but reality. Employees want the real thing. That’s the kind of employee you want to be and the kind of employee you want working for you.

And for God’s sake, would all the world’s wannabe opinion leaders desperately seeking followers and attention quit misleading everyone by acting like they know what they’re talking about when they don’t have a clue? Please?

For more uncommon wisdom on what it takes to make it in a competitive world, pick up Real Leaders Don’t Follow at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks or Indie Bound.

Image credit aka Tman Flickr