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Forget The Fire, Stoke The Flame – Leading When Motivation Vanishes

Sassi Ochoa, a CIJ Clarity Catalyst and transformational trainer, embraces her purpose of service-driven living. Through various roles as a blogger, coach, runner and wanderlust enthusiast, she embodies diverse forms of leadership, inspiring others to explore their own paths of empowerment.

Executive Contributor Sassi Ochoa

Is it true that a leader needs to be motivated and motivate others? Is it possible to be a leader without motivation? Two frequent questions, and multiple perspectives around them.

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I want to share with you one of them based on my learning. Notice that I’m using “learning” instead of “knowledge.” So, in this article and future writings, I will share stories, personal experiences, or lessons about the processes that have involved leadership in my life. I don't claim to possess absolute truth or mastery in the field. Consider this an invitation to explore with an open mind.


I prefer to see myself as an apprentice in the knowledge area I am passionate about "leadership”.


“Great leaders are students of leadership” Simon Sinek


Leadership is not a title, it’s a skill and a choice, therefore it’s necessary to practice it consistently to embody it. And guess what? Sometimes, you and I forget to exercise our leadership entirely. 


Let me tell you one undeniable truth: “You are a leader”. Of course, you are. Believe me. However, we were not trained to act as leaders, we were taught to follow the rules of the game instead of how to create our own win-win game. So, you have the capability, but you’re not trained to use it in all its potential. You’re unconsciously leading.


Why am I saying this? Because leadership is fundamentally about making choices. In your ability to choose resides your power. If you’re always making choices, you’re leading your life. And when you’re conscious of your choice you can be accountable for your results, it means you are the author of what is happening in your life right now.


The unexpected discovery of powerful leadership motivation


A short story. In April 2016, an earthquake destroyed the city where I used to live. (Ecuador earthquake - The New York Times) The disaster’s victims were in tents for several days, even months. I found myself without a job, my home damaged, my family miles away, severe tropical weather, and struggling with post-traumatic stress, sharing an unknown space with unknown people. It was a time of fear, uncertainty, and despair. I must say that only survivors could understand that in front of an event like this, the only response of the brain is survival—one of the greatest breakdowns of my life.


It was so easy for me to develop my emotional intelligence in social or work environments, but in this crisis, supporting myself and others was challenging. Most of us can achieve great performance in a favorable environment, the challenge is to achieve the same performance in adversity.


How did I overcome the circumstances? Surrendering to the flow of events allowed me to accept the situation and find peace. I had my new life opportunity. In the face of adversity, I realized the importance of being present and taking action to make a difference. The days became eternal and the only way to manage the anxiety was to do something. Do what? Something to help someone else


The government was worried about the food and water, but it was not enough. I realized that the government could not take care of all the needs, especially for women, such as sanitary towels, wipes, and diapers for babies. Hidden necessities were present, but not everybody was present to them. So, my first “aha moment” of leadership was to be present to the little details, and after that take action to make the difference for someone. My friend and I started gathering donations for women's essentials, which were overlooked amidst the crisis.


I wasn’t motivated at that time. I was exhausted physically and emotionally. But deeply connected with this newly found purpose. This experience taught me that true leadership transcends motivation.


If you’re interested in exploring and connecting with your life purpose, I invite you to consider the CIJ Clarity Catalyst Program, while your inner child delights in a creative and joyful environment. It could transform your life!


This little action sparked a chain reaction. Other partners took care of the facilities and brought us the possibility of getting fans for the hot nights of the season. Every day more and more people were awakened on how to create value for each other in that precarious space. One day, one of them told me: “You inspired me to do more than I normally would.” That moment became crystal clear about my role in life and an awakening to what matters. Until that event, I identified myself with a professional role but was unconscious of my role as a human being. 


When your and other lives are on the line then motivation is not such an important factor as your leadership, your faith, your compassion, your courage, your vulnerability (The power of vulnerability - Brené Brown), and your team game.


True leadership means consistently choosing courage instead of fear


My answer to the first question of this article is: Motivation is the initial spark to do something, and if you’re not motivated, your vision and commitment could be your vehicle to become a true consistent leader. 


Motivation has an expiration date because it is related to your emotional state, it is weak and unreliable. I’m sure you have by now enough evidence that when motivation is not present in your life your results don’t show up. So please, do not fool yourself by betting everything on motivation. It could be a dangerous game for your mind and your peers or collaborators.


The best way to exercise your leadership is to be authentic and to acknowledge that you’re only a human being and the motivation is not always in your behavior. Your leadership is built with consistent practice and it does not depend on how you feel. 


You might already know my answer to the second question. Leadership exists because you’re able to choose courage instead of fear, commitment instead of complaint, and vision instead of judgment. So, the next time you’re doubting your leadership capabilities, remember that you only need to make a choice and be accountable for what you create with it.


Even in your worst days, you can be an extraordinary leader!


Read more from Sassi Ochoa


Sassi Ochoa, Mindfulness & Transformational Coach

Sassi Ochoa combines 15 years of successful experience in the insurance sales industry with 5 years of holistic leadership experience, spanning both professional and personal domains.

Committed to providing Latin people with the same transformative educational opportunities she has experienced translated Stanford University's prestigious CIJ Clarity Catalyst program into Spanish during the 2020 pandemic, facilitating it in her community's mother language since then. Additionally, she created the virtual worshop "Leadership is written with H", designed to connect managers and collaborators with their commitment, emotional competences, and the significance of teamwork.



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