4 ways great leaders use the 4-Drive Model to impact employee’s motivation

How leaders can impact employee’s motivation using the 4-Drive Theory

The 4-Drive Theory of Employee Motivation states that there are four main drives that motivate employees, these are the drives to: Acquire & Achieve, to Bond & Belong, to be Challenged & Comprehend, and to Define & Defend.

In order to maximize motivation leaders need to provide opportunities for employees to satisfy these four drives.

Leaders can begin to influence and start to fulfill each of these drives by using some of the systems and processes they already have in place.  Changes and enhancements to those systems can help the organization become one in which employees can satisfy their drives and become highly motivated!

We attempt to map the connection between each of the four drives and the different organizational systems/processes that impact them.

Drive A: Achieve & Acquire

This drive is primarily satisfied through a company’s Reward System. This drive is met when companies have a total reward system that:

  • highly differentiates top performers from average performers and average performers from poor performers;
  • clearly ties rewards to performance;
  • recognition is consistently given for outstanding performance;
  • pay is above the competitive benchmarks in the city/industry;
  • top employees are promoted from within.

Drive B: Bond & Belong

This drive is mostly met through an Organization’s Culture. This drive is fulfilled when an organization’s culture is one that:

  • embraces teamwork;
  • encourages the development of friendships and bonding;
  • one in which employees can depend on their peers to help them;
  • that values collaboration;
  • that celebrates and shares;
  • a culture that is focused on the “employee first”.

Drive C: Challenge & Comprehend

This drive is fulfilled primarily through Job and Organizational Structure.  Organizations need to ensure that the various job roles within the company provide employees with stimulation that challenges them or allows them to grow.  Job roles that satisfy this drive should:

  • be seen as important in the organization;
  • jobs should provide personal meaning and fulfillment;
  • roles should engender a feeling of contribution to the organization;
  • organizational structures that provide growth opportunities within the company;
  • learning offerings (training, seminars, etc) that provide employees with new skills and knowledge;
  • job sharing/rotational opportunities that can provide new challenges.

Drive D:  Define & Defend

This drive is met mostly through an employee feeling alignment and connection to the organization.  This can be done through a company’s Vision/Reputation and their Performance Management System. Organizations that have a strong vision or positive reputation in the marketplace can help create that alignment with employees.  The company should be perceived to be:

  • fair;
  • ethical;
  • providing a valued service or good;
  • cutting edge
  • good stewards.

Organization’ performance management systems can also help through giving insight into the company’s vision.  Performance management system should be one that is:

  • open and transparent;
  • perceived to be fair to all employees;
  • provides direction;
  • trusted by employees.

What great leaders do!

Rightfully or not, many employees look to the company to provide them their motivation for work.  While many of these motivations are inherently in a company, good leaders know that they have to work at it constantly to ensure that they are satisfying all four drives.

Focus on all 4 Drives:

It is important to understand that all the good work that a company or leader does in these four areas can be ruined if just one of the four drives is a little lacking. Research shows that weakness on fulfilling one of the 4-Drives “castes a negative halo” on how the company or leader performs on all the other 3 drives. If a leader wants to be great, it is important then for a leader to ensure that they are identifying and addressing any issues that they see in any of the four drive areas.

Individualize motivation:

It is also important to know that individual employees each have a unique 4-Drive Motivational profileResearch on this shows that different demographics and personalities respond differently to the four drives.  In other words, some employees will respond or require greater satisfaction of the A drive, while others will focus in on the C drive (or B or D).  Each employee will perceive how the company or leader is performing on these differently.  Great leaders are one’s who understand those differences and can focus specific employees on the satisfiers of their specific needs.

Communicate effectively:

Leaders need to be able to effectively communicate how their systems, policies and structure align with the four drives.  In other words, they need to be able  to map out the connections between what the company is doing or providing and how that would satisfy one or more of the drives.  For instance, a leader could discuss the reason that they are sponsoring a community service event is not only to help the community (drive D) but also to provide an opportunity for employees to get to know each other and their families (drive B) and to give them a chance to learn a new skill (drive C).  Great leaders create the talking points that get discussed.


Great leaders need to constantly look for ways of enhancing each of the four drives.  This is an ongoing commitment that requires leaders to be focused on looking for different ways in which they can provide the opportunities for employees to satisfy their needs.  They should implement new structures and processes and see how they work.  Add a new twist on an old program (i.e., earn a lunch with the president if you are the top performer this week), do something totally new (i.e., take your team to a Boys and Girls club for an afternoon of mentoring), stop doing something you’ve always done (i.e., quit giving your poorest performers an annual raise) – just keep experimenting.

Share this article with your friends or leave a comment and let us know your thoughts and ideas on how leaders can use the 4-Drives to create a more motivated work place!