Utilizing Intrinsic Motivation and Transformational Leadership in Professional Services Organizations Research Paper

Pages: 20 (5121 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 18  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Leadership

Professional services organizations of all types and sizes are faced with some significant challenges in an increasingly globalized and competitive marketplace, but properly managed, these challenges can be translated into opportunities for growth providing that the right blend of intrinsic motivation and transformational leadership methods are used. These issues are particularly relevant for professional services firms competing in the information technology sector today. Therefore, to identify what optimal approaches are currently being used and advocated for improving performance and productivity in professional services firms today, this study examines the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Utilizing Intrinsic Motivation and Transformational Leadership in Professional Services Organizations


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Professional services organizations such as law firms, accounting firms, and other consultancies are faced with the same types of problems that are currently common to many types of other organizations such as increasing competition and a harsh economic climate. Professional services organizations, though, also enjoy many of the same types of opportunities that are available to other types of organizations such as innovations in technology and human resource practices that provide them with new ways of doing business that are more efficient and profitable. Professional services organizations differ from other types of enterprises, though, in types of people who are involved, and such firms require an informed human resource management approach to be effective. Therefore, to determine how intrinsic motivation and transformational leader methods can be used to promote performance and profitability in professional services organizations, this study provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

TOPIC: Research Paper on Utilizing Intrinsic Motivation and Transformational Leadership in Professional Services Organizations Assignment

Review and Analysis

Background and Overview

One of the more challenging aspects of leading any type of organization is the need to identify what types of leadership techniques are best suited to the environment at any given time, and developing the skills and insights that are needed to provide this type of leadership in an effective and informed fashion. The connection between such informed leadership practices and firm profitability are well established (Susskind, 1999). The need for optimal leadership, though, is great and competition among professional services organizations of all types and sizes has significantly increased in recent years (Susskind, 1999). Indeed, Susskind emphasizes that, "There is an avalanche of competition from suppliers of professional services" (p. 29). Moreover, there is a growing amount of overlap between the types of services that are being provided by professional services organizations (Susskind, 1999). In addition, the clientele of these professional services organizations are in a state of transition as well and have become more discerning and specific in their demands for professional services organizations (Susskind, 1999). This combination of increasing competition as well as pressure from clientele for faster and less expensive fees makes this need for effective motivational techniques and leadership methods all the greater and these issues are discussed further below.

Intrinsic Motivational Techniques for Professional Services Organizations

In contrast to extrinsic motivational factors such as rewards, intrinsic motivation is based on two fundamental "internal" human needs: (a) the need for competence and (b) the need for self-determination (Cameron & Pierce, 2002). When people are intrinsically motivated, they tend to either enjoy what they are doing or they receive some other type of personal gratification from the enterprise that encourages its continuation (Cameron & Pierce, 2002). From this perspective, activities that provide people with a firm sense of competence and self-determination will be highly motivating for professionals of all ilk, and the pay-off for the sponsoring organization can be significant. For instance, Cameron and Pierce note that, "The energy of intrinsic motivation [is that it] heightens interest and sustains involvement in an activity" (2002, p. 39). The benefits that can be realized through intrinsic motivational approaches can be significant. As staff members become more involved with work in a specialized area of interest, they will likely develop a more pronounced sense of loyalty for the company because of this opportunity. These staff members will then of their own volition engage in behaviors, including building networks of community of practice that are mutually beneficial. In this regard, Kaarsemaker (2008) reports that property motivated professionals take the initiative to learn all they can about the enterprise, and make the extra effort that is needed to put this knowledge to work in meaningful ways. The outcome of the process over time can be cumulative and have organization-wide implications, including increased productivity and profitability (Kaarsemaker, 2008).

Some examples of how this aspect of intrinsic motivation can be used in a professional services organization include assigning work in ways that capitalize on individual talents and preferences. For instance, in a corporate law firm setting, some attorneys may prefer environmental work because they have strong beliefs in these issues (one way or the other) that are intrinsically motivating, while others may prefer high value work that provides them with the maximum extrinsic rewards in terms of hours billable that are achievable with less or little regard for the intrinsic self-determination and competence factors. In fact, empirical observations confirm that some lawyers (and presumably other professionals as well) have trained themselves to only visit the restroom once (or twice) during the workday, thereby minimizing disruptions to their billable schedule to the maximum extent possible.

This commitment to earning as much as possible makes the selection of appropriate motivational techniques for these individuals straightforward, but intrinsic motivation methods can still be used for these and other like-minded professionals if their individual preferences for what types of work are involved are identified and taken into account when assignments are doled out. For example, many professionals keep pictures of their families on their desk not so much as a matter of sharing them with their superiors, peers and subordinates, but rather to remind them of why they are doing what they are doing, which in some cases may involve doing something that they may find personally distasteful such as evicting a widow and her children or treating AIDS patients who vomit on their shoes but which must done as part of their professional responsibilities. This observation is congruent with Vockell's (2001) assertion that, "Even though intrinsic motivation is highly desirable, many of the activities in which human beings engage are directly influenced by extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation" (para. 3).

Therefore, simply providing additional opportunities to receive extrinsic rewards (i.e., additional pay or benefits, promotions, etc.) may become counterproductive over time unless these motivators are balanced with appropriate intrinsic motivational techniques (Vockell, 2001). For these individuals, then, there is an inextricable relationship between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation that can be discerned and used to motivate these professionals to sustained superior performance.

Some examples of how these principles can be applied in a law firm environment are provided by Carayannis and Juneau (2003) who cite the case of one law firm that billed at the hourly rate but also invested in select high-tech clients as part of their motivational approach because many of their newer hires had expressed a preference for this type of work. The approach succeeded in reducing new attorney attrition and improved overall billable hours in the process (Carayannis & Juneau, 2003). In order to encourage those behaviors that produce improved economic performance such as billable hours, professional service firms must encourage appropriate knowledge-sharing practices. In this regard, Weiss (1999) emphasizes that, "To facilitate knowledge sharing, professional service firms must ensure that incentives are aligned with the goals of creating a knowledge sharing organization. Too often, professionals receive mixed messages about the importance of knowledge sharing. For instance, most professional service firms have incentives for professionals, especially for more senior-level professionals, to develop new client business and be highly responsive to existing clients" (p. 62).

Such extrinsic motivators, though, tend to encourage a corporate culture that only values billable services in ways that discourage intrinsically motivating activities that may also add value for the firm. According to Weiss, "The project structure of professional services firms generally emphasizes 'billable hours,' the billing of clients for legitimate work performed on their behalf. This practice may leave professionals with the impression that 'if it's not billable, it doesn't count' and that therefore the activity is not worth doing" (p. 62). When this type of corporate culture exists, professionals may be disinclined from engaging in those activities that create the networks and communities of practice that are needed to grow the firm's business and promote intrinsically motivating opportunities for all of the firm's practitioners. In this regard, Weiss (1999) points out that in many professional services organizations, knowledge-sharing activities are viewed as being less important than performing billable services, a process that can actually detract from firm performance over time and, given the choice, many lawyers will opt for client-focused activities that generate short-term revenues at the long-term expense of the company.

This misperception detracts from the firm's overall productivity and profitability in ways that may be difficult to quantify, but which will… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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