Every once in a while someone helps you realize something that changes the way you think about yourself. This is exactly what happened when I was sitting across a guy I have a great deal of respect for at coffee the other day. We were talking about life, leadership and probably a little bit of what it looks like to love people well; the typical things we talk about when we get together.

We were discussing the topic of drive in a leader. Every leader has to have it.

It’s one of those “indispensable qualities” that John Maxwell talks about in his books all the time.

It’s what get’s things done.

Drive moves people.

It inspires.


There are two primary manifestations of your personal motivation: Competition & Ambition. Neither one is better than the other, they’re just different and both motivate leaders to perform better and push their drive for success. Here are the differences between these two primary motivation theory’s of driven leaders:


Some leaders find themselves being driven by competition. Competitive leaders start a project by surveying the competitors or doing market research. They want to win by out performing someone or something.  Competition is easy to measure, you’re either winning or you’re not. It’s black and white.

It’s an external personal motivator: other (external) people affect the ultimate outcome or drive of the leader.

I think Larry Page, founder of Google, is famously known as a competitive leader. He want’s to be the best in the search business and is very aware of how to stay ahead. He innovates for the sake of being ahead. A leader like Larry Page is driven by being known as the top search engine company and outperforming Microsoft and Yahoo.



The other type is ambition. Ambitious leaders are winning if they are improving themselves or those around them. They don’t care about competitors, in fact they would think doing market research was a waste of time. For the prize is in bettering themselves in the process. A leader who is driven by ambition will lean toward measuring their success by their own accord than the progress of others. These are leaders who keep their heads down. Which means if someone else is innovating, they don’t know and they don’t care.

Related Posts:  Creative Hibernation

This is an internal personal motivator . Personal growth fuels the future for ambitious leaders.

Take a look at Steve Jobs and his leadership methods. He never cared about surveying the competition, but rather relied on his personal drive to be better and make phenomenal products.



It’s the difference between basketball and swimming. Both are actually team sports. Both have a winner.

However the basketball team wins by making the other team loose. The swimming team wins by each individual bettering themselves.


How are you driven?