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Motivating individuals to consistently deliver exceptional results can be complex. It requires a deep understanding of the underlying factors that drive human behaviour. Two key concepts that play a crucial role in this process are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

By comprehending the difference between these two types of motivation and using them to your advantage, leaders can create an environment that fosters purpose-driven performance.

In this article, we will explore the intricacies of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, their impact on employee engagement and productivity, and strategies for creating a culture of high performance.

Intrinsic Motivation

When individuals engage in activities driven by intrinsic motivation, they do so because they find value and enjoyment in the process itself.

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the three fundamental pillars of intrinsic motivation.

[bctt tweet="At the core of intrinsic motivation lies the desire for personal fulfilment and satisfaction."]


Autonomy refers to the desire to have control over one’s own life and decisions. When employees have the freedom to direct their work, make decisions, and take ownership of their projects, they feel a sense of empowerment. This sense of autonomy fuels their motivation, as they are driven by the opportunity to shape their progression within the organisation.


Mastery is the pursuit of continuous improvement and growth. When individuals have the opportunity to develop and become experts or ‘masters’, they experience a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. The challenge of acquiring new knowledge and honing their skills becomes a source of intrinsic motivation, driving them to perform at their best.


Purpose is the desire to contribute to something larger than oneself. When employees believe that their work has meaning and aligns with their personal values and aspirations, they are intrinsically motivated to give their best effort. Understanding the impact of their role and how they contribute to the organisation’s mission gives them a sense of purpose and fulfilment.


The Influence of Extrinsic Motivation

While intrinsic motivation stems from within, extrinsic motivation is derived from external factors. Extrinsic motivators include tangible rewards—such as pay, bonuses, promotions, and praise—that are provided by others.

The Power of Extrinsic Rewards 

Extrinsic rewards, such as monetary incentives and recognition, have long been used to drive performance in the workplace. These rewards can influence behaviour and can be effective in motivating employees to achieve specific goals or targets.  

The Overjustification Effect 

One phenomenon associated with extrinsic rewards is the overjustification effect. This occurs when individuals who were initially intrinsically motivated to perform a task become less motivated once extrinsic rewards are introduced. The external rewards can overshadow the intrinsic motivation, leading to a decrease in overall engagement and enjoyment of the task. 

The Role of Extrinsic Motivation 

While extrinsic motivation may not be as sustainable as intrinsic motivation, it can still play a valuable role in certain situations.

[bctt tweet="Extrinsic motivators can be particularly effective when individuals need to complete tasks that they find unpleasant or challenging."]

Rewards can provide a source of external feedback, recognition, and reinforcement, encouraging individuals to persevere and achieve desired outcomes.

Cultivating a Purpose-Driven Performance Culture

To create a high-performance culture, leaders must understand how to harness the power of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. By striking the right balance and aligning these motivators with the organisation’s goals and values, we can foster an environment that inspires employees and enables excellence.

Here are some strategies to drive a purpose-driven performance culture:

1. Establish a Clear and Compelling Purpose

Having a sense of purpose in the workplace comes from working for an organisation with a vision you identify with. For the first time, younger generations value a sense of purpose over pay.

A clear sense of purpose can motivate and inspire employees, increase engagement and productivity, and ultimately drive business success. When employees feel like their work has meaning and contributes to a larger goal, they are more likely to feel fulfilled and committed to their jobs.

2. Foster Autonomy and Empowerment

Grant employees the autonomy to make decisions and have a say in how they accomplish their work. Encourage self-direction and provide opportunities for them to take ownership of their projects. By empowering employees to have control over their work, you tap into their intrinsic motivation and foster a sense of ownership and accountability.

3. Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Promote a culture of continuous learning and development. Encourage employees to embrace challenges, acquire new skills, and strive for excellence in their roles. Provide resources and opportunities for growth, such as training programs, mentorship, and access to new projects.

4. Recognise and Celebrate Achievements

Regularly recognise and reward individuals for their contributions, both publicly and privately. This recognition can take the form of monetary rewards, promotions, or simply expressing gratitude and praise. By celebrating achievements, you reinforce the link between performance and extrinsic rewards, boosting motivation and engagement.

5. Foster Collaboration and Social Connection

Create opportunities for employees to connect and collaborate. Encourage teamwork, cross-functional projects, and knowledge sharing. By fostering a sense of belonging and social connection, you tap into the social aspect of intrinsic motivation. When employees feel connected and supported, they are more likely to be motivated to perform at their best.

6. Provide Feedback

Offer constructive feedback and guidance to help employees improve their performance. Regularly check in with them to discuss their goals, progress, and areas for development. Provide opportunities for skill-building and professional growth, such as workshops, seminars, and mentorship programs. By investing in their development, you demonstrate a commitment to their success and fuel their intrinsic motivation.

7. Create a Positive Work Environment

Cultivate a positive and inclusive work environment that promotes psychological safety and wellbeing. Encourage open communication and respect among team members. Provide flexibility and work-life balance initiatives to support employees’ overall wellbeing. When employees feel valued, supported, and happy in their work environment, their intrinsic motivation thrives.


By leveraging the power of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, we can inspire employees to excel and achieve their full potential.

Remember, intrinsic motivation comes from within, while extrinsic motivation is influenced by external factors. By nurturing intrinsic motivators and complementing them with carefully tailored extrinsic rewards and recognition, leaders can create an environment that fuels purpose-driven performance.