Carrot and Stick leadership VS. Values Led Leadership

employee retention leadership

For a long time it has been believed that rewarding hard work gets people to put in more effort, and that people will not do the work that is demanded of them if there is no threat to some form of security or desire they have. This is classic carrot and stick leadership.

People are still motivated by reward, but the carrot is a form of extrinsic motivation, and more people are intrinsically motivated nowadays meaning they are driven by internal rewards. Of course, people still understand they will suffer consequences if they don’t fulfil their role responsibilities, but leading by fear of punishment destroys trust, diminishes any sense of empowerment, and destroys engagement and creativity.

Research shows that employees are most engaged when:

  • They feel their employer has a genuine interest in them.
  • They feel heard and acknowledged.
  • They are working alongside motivated and engaged colleagues.

Leading with values is the way forward.

When I say leading with values, I mean understanding the hot buttons of your employees, their drivers, what motivates them to come to work and do what they do.

The biggest mistake leaders can make is assume they know what motivates their employees to come to work every day. If you assume, I guarantee that more often than not your assumptions will be incorrect.

Assumptions are the termites of relationships.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of motivating people in a way that would motivate you. If you are ambitious, motivated by success, money, and recognition, you might be tempted to motivate your team in the same way.  

But you could be attempting to motivate your team members in a way that isn’t right for them. This leads to a whole host of challenges, resentments, and disengaged team members.

For example, let’s say you assume that someone is motivated by progression and offer them more responsibility in their role and dangle the carrot of a senior role. But what “progression” means in your model of the world may not be the same in theirs.

To the employee, it might not mean climbing the ladder, having a senior job title, or taking on lots more responsibility. It might mean learning new things, growing as a vet or nurse, and being able to feel more of a sense of contribution and purpose in their role but not necessarily having the job title or status of being in a leadership position. I’ve seen this exact example play out before and the employee was left feeling overwhelmed and taken advantage of.

It would be relatively easy (and heart-breaking) to lose your highest performer or most valued team member this way, and this is where leading with values works.

Uncover Your Employee’s Hot Buttons

Uncovering your teams’ values means you begin to understand their model of the world and what's important to them. It means you can utilise the information to motivate, develop, and retain them, in a way that is right for them.

I hear all the time from leaders who want to find new ways to motivate their team, but they don’t know how. Investing in a Team Values Report will give you unique insights about your team AND save you thousands in unnecessary recruitment costs.


“A great leader leads the people from within them”.