Greek Myths and Expectation Power

When talking incentives, a lot of leaders teeter between two sides of the management fence: Self-motivation versus Supervisor motivation.

Which is more powerful? Are people more inclined to be motivated by their own expectations or that of their leader?

Pygmalion (or Rosenthal) Effect – the power of other’s expectations. This theory states that people will perform in ways that are consistent with the expectations of their supervisors.

Galatea Effect – the power of self-expectations. If I believe I can do it, then I am more likely to succeed.

Based on the Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his ivory creation, Galatea, these theories show the phenomenon where higher expectations (those of our bosses, or ourselves) lead to better performance.

So, which one works better?

You’ll hear arguments for both camps. Everyone has an opinion about which is more powerful. So why can’t we use a combination of both?

As leaders, it’s our job to see the potential in our followers, not their current status. We believe that they can achieve more than they realize and we encourage them to fulfill those goals. It’s also our job to help them see themselves as victors. As individuals capable of incredible things.

The greater the confidence we show in their abilities, the greater confidence they will have in themselves.

We might not always be able to control how our team sees themselves, but we can do our best to display our encouragement (even in non-verbal cues). A nod, smile, thumbs-up, note of encouragement, and public praise can do wonders to boosting the confidence of our team members.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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