Motivation is one of the most important aspects of leadership. A team or individual without motivation is pretty much a team or person with limited potential. A lack of motivation spells flat performance.

With leadership tips as ubiquitous as diet tips, it's hard not to get confused with what really works. But the reality is that motivation must come from within the individual.

This is great news for a leader, because in many ways it gets you off the hook. I think there is a lot of wasted time spent on trying to get other people inspired, when the message should be that you must inspire yourself.

With that said, there is a still an important role leaders can play. People look up to leaders, and leaders set the tone for company culture. Their behavior models how everyone else should behave. Rather than spending time trying to motivate others, leaders should really be focusing on one thing.

Showing interest.

Showing interest speaks to a human need to be noticed, seen, and valued for who you are. If you are able to do that as a leader, then watch out: you'll build loyalty in your team, and they will do anything to help the organization succeed.

Here are 4 ways to show interest and stoke the fires of your organization:

1. Listen.

Often leaders think that they have to take charge and always be the first to speak. But what's really important is creating an environment where others feel safe to speak their minds, offer their ideas, and add their points of view to the discussion. Great leaders aren't always the ones in the spotlight. If you focus on listening--and building the habits and environments to do so--your team will feel valued and will appreciate your efforts to include everyone.

2. Take the time to understand someone's strengths, and ask them to share this information with you.

Leaders of the future know that people are more than their standard job descriptions. In fact, trying to fit your team into standard job roles--without any room for innovation and fluidity--is a recipe for disaster. Focus on your employees as individuals, and make a point to understand each person's Zone of Genius. The best way to do this? Start by having a conversation with your people about their strengths and the type of work that puts them in a state of flow.

3. Share your thoughts on your vision for the organization and how that person or team is a critical part of that future success.

One of the best things you can do to help someone become motivated is to align their personal mission with the company's mission. Help them connect the dots with how they uniquely contribute to the company. The first step to all of this is to have a private conversation with this individual, and to openly and honestly share where your organization is going and its visions for the future. Then turn it over to the individual: discuss how they can be a critical part to that success.

4. Ask them how excited or engaged they are with their work, and ask for honesty.

This is a big one. Getting regular feedback from your team should be a major priority for you as a leader. This means that you have to have frank conversations about the work that they are doing and whether or not it gets them excited. Keeping a pulse on engagement at work will help you know when it's time to step in and make some changes, and when to step back and watch great work happen.

Published on: Sep 6, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.