Originally posted on 3 Jan 2014

Many feature films arouse emotions and contain profound messages of motivation. They provide stories about characters with specific motivational needs. Revenge is often used as the protagonist’s motivation in many films. It’s a powerful emotional force fixing direction towards a clear goal to achieve justice to counter an earlier injustice (often in the opening scene) which generates audience empathy for the character. This incident, along with the protagonist’s attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice, forms the foundation of his motivation.        

wizard of oz For example, the desire for security is one of the primary motivations of characters in popular films, as Judy Garland’s Dorothy showed in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s feelings of insecurity create her motivation to find somewhere without problems but, when she finds that Oz is a dangerous place, she is motivated to return to the safety of her home.
backtothefuture When there’s love and belonging, there’s the need for self-esteem and the need for esteem from others. These motivations are displayed by Michael J Fox playing Marty in Back to the Future – his humiliation and lack of self-esteem is based on his need to belong to a family he can be proud of.
idianajones In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) obtains ancient and rare objects of historical value for his museum, a selfless act of motivation that produces good for the community.
skywalker In Star Wars, the search by Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) for self-esteem and a father figure to provide him with a sense of security motivates much of his behaviour.
btman Revenge plays a role in the motivations of Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) in Batman – Bruce Wayne needs to overcome his feelings of helplessness that he experienced as he watched his parents being murdered when he was only a young child. The Joker wants esteem from others: he wants his “face on the one- dollar bill”.

In Ghost, Sam (Patrick Swayze) needs to save the life of the woman he loves (Molly, played by Demi Moore) and the friend that has helped him (Oda Mae Brown, played by Whoopi Goldberg). Molly needs Sam’s love and doesn’t want to let him go.

eddie murphy In Beverley Hills Cops, Eddie Murphy (as Axel Foley) is motivated to find who murdered his friend, Mike Tandino.
homealone In Home Alone, Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin) needs his family to love him. But he also needs self-esteem because of his inability to take care of himself, and he needs to safeguard his home against the burglars.
shawshank Revenge was the motivation for Andy Dufrene (Tim Robbins) in The Shawshank Redemption – wrongly imprisoned for the murder he didn’t commit of his wife and her golf-club lover. Prison Warden Norton used Andy to run his financial scam empire but Andy gets his own back – the Warden’s money, shoes and respect disappeared down the dank hole Andy used to escape to Mexico. Red Redding (Morgan Freeman), another Shawshank inmate, achieved self- actualisation in being able to survive on the outside with Andy’s help – even after 40 years of imprisonment.

The role of management in motivation

Talking about 40 years, this year is the 40th anniversary of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather – one of the most unexpected books on management practice and corporate governance ever to be published. In between the violence, murder and decapitated horses, it describes the establishment of the business empire of Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando), a poor Sicilian immigrant in New York. Don Corleone uses strong man management skills – and a little boardroom bullying – to build the biggest olive oil company in the US, with interests in gambling, racketeering and corruption off- balance sheet. To facilitate a culture of change, he motivates his most senior managers to explore any new business opportunities that arise. A blog post from Hubspot, written by Brian Halligan in 2007, explores 10 lessons in leadership from Don Corleone. Read it here.

So, if you are to motivate your employees, what emotions are the most likely to trigger a response from them? One thing is for sure, money alone isn’t the answer.

Please go here to see my blog post which looks deeper into what motivation really entails and the importance of motivated employees.

Martin Pollins
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