Commitment to your team: You can’t force it, or fake it


by Paul Levy

First posted on (Not) Running a Hospital on 12/14/2012

Paul Levy, Host of (Not) Running a Hospital

My friend Jim Dougherty has written his first blog post (on a Harvard Business Review site), and we should all hope that it is one of many.  It is entitled, “To get a commitment, make a commitment,” and it deals with a leadership attribute that is often notable for its absence.  As Jim summarizes the point, “I valued individuals more than any work accomplishment.  The highest motivation for team members is to get that kind of emotional connection to the team leader.”

After giving some examples, he summarizes:

What’s the lesson here? If you want to get an emotional commitment from the people who work for you — or with you, or with whom you have business relationships — you need to be willing to commit to them too, unsolicited and without direct hope of reward. 

You can think strategically about how to do this, so you’re ready when opportunity presents itself to take the kinds of actions that produce such a result. But you can’t force it, or fake it. If you do something purely for the hoped-for economic gain, it will show and you will likely fail.

A good lesson from a person who has been extremely successful in his business ventures. I hope Jim shares more with us.


  1. Your people look to you for the answers to several important questions:

    1) Where are we headed? (the “vision thing”)
    2) Why? – what’s in it for the world and what’s in it for me personally?
    3) What is my role? (how can I help?)

    And setting the whole context for the game is the final question.
    4) Do YOU have my back?
    (or are you going to throw me under the bus when things get tough)

    Most leaders can’t clear the first three hurdles … and don’t see the fourth.

    Nail them all and you have launched a successful initiative. (now the hard work starts ;-)

    Dike Drummond MD