By Renie Cavallari

One thing is clear: we are all motivated differently and our motivations change with time and priorities. Some of us are motivated by the desire to make a difference in other people’s lives while others are motivated by pride or a desire to outperform their competition. Some people even hope for someone else to motivate them!

As a leader, you can only inspire people. You can’t motivate them, so stop trying! If you have children, you know that motivation comes from within. Trying to motivate another person is an impossible, never-ending task. The frustration you feel when you repeatedly attempt to motivate someone is because their motivational switch has only one operator… them!

In my research for my new book, aspire… to shine, I interviewed and collected data from hundreds of highly motivated and not-so-motivated people. There is one overriding commonality for all of us:

Our motivations reflect what we value and why we currently value it.

So, how do leaders help shine the light so they bring out the potential of their people and help turn on someone's motivational switch?

As a leader, you must understand how your work and the work of your team contributes to the vision of the company. Inspiring leaders who help people connect the dots between what they do and “the why” help them turn on their motivational switch, regardless of their work product.

You want to know the motivation behind your goals and those of your people. When you understand what you gain by achieving each goal, you naturally turn on your motivational switch. Knowing the goal is only step one. You have to know what your real motivation is behind the goal!

Understanding your motivations and those of the people around you help you to take action and sustain it.

We are all motivated for different reasons and understanding what motivates our people is as simple as asking. I know that when I ask, I am always surprised as what I thought might motivate an individual is far from what they believe. If leaders align goals with the motivations of their people, they realize resounding success. If everyone is not in alignment, the team will likely be unhappy.

When you ask your team the question of what motivates them, it opens a channel of communication. Being a clean communicator is critical to inspiring your people so they can turn on their motivational switch and play “all in.”

Focus on your team's development as highly competent people make a leader’s life undemanding. When your people are competent, it becomes easy for you – and your customers – to recognize them. This acknowledgment of their performance encourages even more performance and grows pride… and pride is inspiring.

When we feel inspired, we turn on our motivational switch. We engage. We want to learn and do more. We care more deeply. We impact others. This creates an energy that connects us and this connection turns up the light. The brighter the light we create, the more we feel energized! This inspires us to do even more.

As a leader, when you shine the light it always reflects on you.

Be a light shiner instead of a light dimmer. And remember, leadership is a behavior, not a position. How you lead (including how you self-lead) reflects how you shine.

Shiners know how to turn on their motivational switch. They understand that no one else can motivate them… they must do that for themselves.

Shining is not just a leadership trait. Shining is a human trait. It is a choice we make. Everyone can be a Shiner!

One thing the motivational switch research made clear was that people are often motivated by making a difference in another person’s life.

Our research showed ‘serving others’ as the highest ranked motivational switch. It came in many forms – from ‘helping people achieve their dreams’ to ‘watching people who work for me soar.’ Regardless of the words, giving and supporting others motivates many of us.

Regardless of what turns on your motivational switch, what is most important is knowing how to do it.

Turn on your motivational switch and you will find more joy. When you tap into what motivates you, regardless of what that is — from leading a team to being a parent — you awaken your passion and passion is life’s fuel.

And speaking of passion, my company Aspire is passionate about Valentine's Day. Get a FREE KINDLE DOWNLOAD of aspire… to shine until Thursday, February 16.

Happy Valentine's Day!