2017 Kenneth E. Clark Award Winner

Aleka MacLellan - Talent & Leadership Development Consultant, LHH Knightsbridge

The Role of Leaders in Motivating Their Subordinates at Work


Aleka MacLellan Aleka MacLellan is a Consultant with LHH Knightsbridge Talent and Leadership Development in Toronto, Ontario. LHH Knightsbridge helps organizations simplify leadership and workforce transformation so they can accelerate their performance, with less risk. The Talent and Leadership Development practice helps organizations build leaders, teams and performance cultures for today and the future. Aleka's focus is in leadership assessment for the purpose of selection, succession planning and development, as well as team effectiveness and culture.

Prior to joining LHH Knightsbridge, Aleka completed her PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Aleka's research on leadership was supported by over 20 funding awards. Additionally, Aleka has presented at over 10 conferences, seven of which she received awards for best submission or presentation.

Abstract: There is substantial research on the importance of autonomous motivation in the workplace; however, little is known on how to change motivation. For instance, vast research supports the beneficial effects of transformational leadership on leaders and their subordinates; and yet, the role of leaders' own motivation has often been ignored. Drawing on self-determination theory of motivation and the full range leadership model, this research examined whether leaders' own motivation and/or their leadership styles have an effect on their subordinates' motivation. Using a longitudinal research design, Study 1 demonstrated that a) leaders' own motivation predicted their leadership style; b) leaders' leadership style had an impact on the quantity, but not the quality, of their subordinates' motivation; and c) leaders' own motivation predicted the motivation of their subordinates such that amotivation and autonomous motivation were contagious between leaders and their subordinates. Given the contagious nature of autonomous motivation found in Study 1, Study 2 used an intervention to examine whether the effects of a training and coaching program aimed at enhancing leaders' autonomous motivation would extend to their subordinates as well. This intervention for leaders was delivered and evaluated using a longitudinal control group design. Compared to leaders who did not receive the intervention, leaders who participated in the training and coaching a) experienced increased autonomous motivation, b) perceived greater meaning in their work, and c) had a more autonomy-supportive style of leadership. Subordinates whose leaders participated in the intervention also experienced increased autonomous motivation and meaningful work. Accordingly, this research suggests that the motivational effects often attributed to transformational leadership may in fact be the result of a motivation contagion effect.

The ILA is pleased to partner with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) on the Kenneth E. Clark Student Research Award. CCL is a top-ranked, global provider of executive education. Founded in 1970 as a nonprofit, CCL helps clients around the world to cultivate creative leadership – the capacity to achieve more than imagined by thinking and acting beyond boundaries. The award is named in honor of the distinguished scholar and former Chief Executive Officer of CCL and recognizes unpublished student papers on leadership or leadership development. Recipients are honored during a conference plenary and invited to give a talk on their work at ILA's global conference.