The desire to achieve is a major source of strength in busi­ness, and it is on the rise.

There’s a dark side to the trend, however. By relent­lessly focusing on tasks and goals, an exec­u­tive or company can damage perfor­mance. Over­achievers tend to command and coerce, stifling subor­di­nates.

Psychol­o­gist David McClel­land iden­ti­fied three drivers of behavior: achieve­ment, meeting a stan­dard of excel­lence; affil­i­a­tion, main­taining close rela­tion­ships; and power, having an impact on others. He said the power motive comes in two forms: person­al­ized, in which the leader draws strength from control­ling people, and social­ized, where the leader derives strength from empow­ering people.

Studies show that great charis­matic leaders are highly moti­vated by social­ized power. To look at how motives and lead­er­ship style affect a group’s work climate and perfor­mance, the authors studied 21 senior managers at IBM.

The leaders who created high-performing and ener­gizing climates got more lasting results by using a broad range of styles, choosing different ones for different circum­stances. Rather than order people around, they provided vision, sought buy-in and commit­ment, and coached.

Read the article in Harvard Busi­ness Review, June 2006.