consequence-managementAlmost any leader will be able to impose responsibility on their individual and collective team members. Imposing responsibility is very much a command-follow and carrot/stick leadership tactic. Responsibility is imposed externally through fear or reward.

This is the basis of consequence management, and it’s paradoxical.

If a leader chooses not to apply consequence management, (celebrating, sharing and rewarding the positive and cautioning, coaching, and if not remedied, punishing the negative), individual and collective team members are very much left to their own sense of personal responsibleness to live up to expectations.

Responsibleness is the freely chosen desire of an individual to hold themselves responsible and accountable for their intentions, promises, actions and results.

This is steeped in the scientific research (for example, Viktor Frankl, 1985; Robert Fabry, 1994; Paul Wong, 2013; Mike Steger, 2013) of the positive significance that developing a sense of meaning at work can have to create thriving workplaces where leaders and their teams can flourish.

Any leader who can inspire their individual and collective team members to develop an intrinsic sense of responsibleness will need to rely less on fear or reward as their prime motivational leadership tactic.

Finding Meaning At Work

One of the evidence-based strategies to developing responsibleness at work is for leaders to create work environments where their people find meaning at work.

Research shows (see Dik, Byrne and Steger, 2013) clearly that people can derive meaning at work from a range of sources including but not restricted to the following three key sources:

  1. They sense an alignment of their personal values with the value they create for others (clients, colleagues etc.) when they perform their job tasks.
  2. From a sense of contribution to a higher cause (good will, charity, social responsibility).
  3. Through the value they find in the relationships they have with their leader, their colleagues, their clients and others who they connect with through their job roles

Through a higher sense of meaning at work, the intrinsic motivation that is developed within individuals and teams also develops this sense of responsibleness.

With a higher sense of meaning at work, people freely choose to be responsible for their intentions, promises, actions and results… and this builds a workplace of intentional and responsible trust.

Don’t stop the consequence management

This is not to suggest that there isn’t a place for consequence management in the 21st century. That would be ridiculous. In fact, my observation is that there is far too little consequence management in many organisations.

Again, this is the paradox.

While leaders still need to have consequence management in place to ensure individual and collective team member responsibility and accountability, if they can inspire their people to develop a higher sense of personal responsibleness for their individual intentions, promises, actions and results, their people will be more intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated to hold themselves responsible for their individual and collective success.

What can leaders do?

  1. Help their people see an alignment of the value they create for others (clients, colleagues and other stakeholders) when they do what they do in their job roles.
  2. Help their people develop a sense of contribution to a higher cause (good will, charity, social responsibility).
  3. Create a work environment where positive trust relationships are encouraged, formed and nurtured.

The extrinsic motivation that is created through consequence management is a necessary and relatively easy strategy for successful leadership.

Calling all intentional and courageous leaders

However, intentional and courageous leaders will take heed and action from what we know from a vast array of evidence-based research, which is this. Given similar competencies and resources, an individual who is intrinsically motivated, who has a sense of personal responsibleness for their intentions, promises, actions and results, will outperform an extrinsically motivated team member across a range of organisational measures of success.

When it’s all said and done, leaders ought to be seeking, hiring, and nurturing employees who have within their Character DNA a strong sense of responsibleness.

How do you identify this in a potential candidate? Ask them “What drives you to complete your work, meet your deadlines and live up to what you promise to deliver?”



If you’d like to explore more about developing a sense of responsibleness in your team or to have me present at your next conference or professional development program, give me a call at our Sydney office on 02 9546 2492 or visit