Read Part I in this series, Retaining our devoted people: It’s now or never, here.

With a deeper understanding of the psychological needs for resilience, we can turn your attention to providing leadership that will support the fulfilment of these needs in your team members. There is one particular style of management with proven results in this area: the Motivator Manager. Stuart Hart and Robert Quinn studied executives that brought a variety of leadership styles to their work[1]. One style floated to the top as the researchers examined their results. The researchers called them Motivators. They led by inspiring their people around a common purpose, and modelled collaborative communication within and external to their teams. The teams led by Motivators thrived, delivering the best performance in the quality and productivity of their work. Even their financial results were better than the executives who employed an authoritarian, top-down approach. Motivator Managers take a participative management approach and focus on results rather than micromanaging the exact tasks of their people.

7 practices of the motivator manager

Participative management involves:

  1. Developing your people as decision-makers.
  2. Bringing a coach approach to your management.
  3. Leading change initiatives from the ground up.

Results-based management involves:

  1. Creating a shared vision that inspires.
  2. Defining exactly what success looks like.
  3. Relentlessly gathering feedback and measuring outcomes.
  4. Celebrating the difference you’ve made together.

Participative management

Using a participative management approach, purpose-driven employers may better meet the psychological needs of their employees for autonomy, competency and relatedness, thereby engaging their intrinsic motivations and reducing burnout. Participative management is “a conscious and intended effort by individuals at a higher level in an organization to provide visible extra-role or role-expanding opportunities for individuals or groups at a lower level in the organization to have a greater voice in one or more areas of organizational performance”[2]. In practice, participative management generally provides employees with greater involvement in goal setting, decision-making, problem-solving, and process refinements related to their own role, and also sometimes at the organizational level[3]. Participative management has been shown to increase employee commitment, engagement, and job satisfaction by increasing the sharing of decision-making influence between a management authority and their employees[4,5,6].

Participative management can help satisfy all three psychological needs described by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s self-determination theory (SDT)[7]: autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and has produced positive outcomes in workplaces such as hospitals[8,9]. It follows that if employees’ psychological needs are met, their individual well-being will also be greater. Evidence for this positive impact has been documented on employee well-being [10,11,12].

Employee autonomy in participative management

Participative management increases employee autonomy by offering them greater influence, both over how they conduct their work individually and potentially into other organizational decisions [13]. For purpose-driven employees like those working in not-for-profit organizations, having an influence on the organization’s direction and how they do their own work is particularly important[14]. As many of these employees view their work as their calling in life, their work represents their participation in a social movement[15]as a member of an ethically-driven community, rather than simply a means for earning an income or establishing a career status. For this reason, calling-oriented NPO employees generally value and expect greater involvement in organizational directions than their corporate sector counterparts. Moreover, less anxiety or depression (and better individual performance) has been documented in employees who reported higher autonomy in their relationship with their manager [16].

The specific practices employed by participative managers can provide the greater autonomy NPO employees are seeking. When participative managers direct and evaluate employee performance by results (outputs or outcomes) more than the exact tasks performed, they provide more latitude for employees to complete work in a way they find works best for them [16]. At a departmental or organizational level, participative managers also conduct greater employee engagement in change initiatives on the premise that it will produce better programs, improved buy-in and stronger compliance[17].

Employee competence in participative management

The fact that not-for-profit employees value competence in their work is not surprising, given the personal importance it holds for them. Participative management can contribute to employees developing competence by encouraging self-leadership in their work. In this approach, the manager holds their employees as competent, and delegates responsibilities rather than assigning tasks prescriptively and incrementally. Managers proficient in this approach will serve as a coach, asking their employees to engage in their own problem-solving and task refinements rather than providing direct tactical instruction, thereby empowering their employees to have ownership in developing themselves .

Employee relatedness in participative management

Participative management generally encourages the establishment of team structures where they are appropriate to the type of work and constructive to producing outcomes. If established effectively and led well, teams can produce greater relatedness between employees, as they experience success through collaboration, seeing the results of their collective efforts[18]. To foster this success, employees may need training and guidance on interpersonal skills and structures such as a team charter that provides clear agreements on shared goals and values, and on behavioural expectations. Where employees are invited to participate in broader organizational decision-making, such as strategic planning exercises, relatedness may also be generated through an experience of being valued contributors to the organization and co-authors of its direction6.

Establishing a participatory management approach will better satisfy an employee’s psychological need for autonomy, competence and relatedness, thereby improving employee well-being and motivation to perform. Creating greater involvement for employees in how the organization is operated and greater control over how they perform their own work to meet outcomes, will give them greater autonomy and allow them to grow their competence8. Through increased constructive dialogue between peers and with their managers, employees will also experience greater relatedness with one another. As a result of these interventions, employee well-being will improve as evidenced by lower emotional exhaustion and burn-out, turnover will decrease, and organizational performance will increase.


[1] Hart, S. L. & Quinn, R. E. (1993).

[2] Glew, D. J., O’Leary-Kelly, A. M., Griffin, R. W., & Van Fleet, D. D. (1995).

[3] Sashkin, M. (1984).

[4] Wagner, J.A., and Gooding, R.Z. (1987).

[5] Cotton, J., Vollrath, D., Froggatt, K., Lengnick-Hall, M., & Jennings, K. (1988).

[6] Kim. S. (2002).

[7] Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R.M. (1985).

[8] Bernardes, A. G., Cummings, G., Gabriel, C. S., Martinez Évora, Y. D., Gomes Maziero, V., & Coleman-Miller, G. (2015).

[9] Matlabi, M., Fariborzi, E., & Nasseri, N. S. (2019).

[10] Marks, M. L., Mirvis, P. H., Hackett, E. J. & Grady, J. F. (1986).

[11] Baard, P. P., Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1998).

[12] Angermeier, I., Dunford, B. B., Boss, A. D., & Boss, R. W. (2009).

[13] Wagner, J.A., and Gooding, R.Z. (1987).

[14] Giacomelli, G., Vainieri, M., Garzi, R., & Zamaro, N. (2020).

[15] Schabram, K., & Maitlis, S. (2016).

[16] Spector, P.E. (1986).

[17] Acker, G.M. (2012).

[18] Stewart, G. L., Courtright, S. H., & Manz, C. C. (2011).



Geoff Urton

Geoff Urton (he/him/his) writes about leadership and personal fulfillment from unceded Songhees territories in Victoria, BC.