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Darfur Emanuel mit Sheikhs in Cafeteria 2007_edited.jpg
Darfur Emanuel mit Sheikhs in Cafeteria 2007.jpg

Starting a movement isn’t possible without striving for it. Movements are a “divine-human cooperative,” as David Garrison (2014:255) put it. The engine that moves our human part forward is our Achievement Drive. All effective movement catalysts are marked by a very strong Achievement Drive. This drive needs to be honed, directed, and fueled, so it doesn’t diminish with time. In this blog we will take a close look under the hood, at your inner engine, so you understand the inner workings of your own motivations better. You will learn how to strengthen your own Achievement Drive and how to steer it well with the other motivations in ministry. If you follow the growth steps I outline at the end, you will be able to align your motivations with God’s heart and be fueled for movement ministry in the long haul.

The engine of effective catalysts

My global research into more than 170 movements has identified Achievement Drive as a trait that characterizes all effective movement catalysts. A description of their Achievement Drive is: Effective movement catalysts are motivated by achieving goals and have a strong drive, both to get things done and to attain results.

Let me highlight three aspects of this definition:

  • Getting things done: Catalysts are motivated to produce outputs. They find joy in the completion of a task more than the process of carrying it out. The anticipation of completion fuels their motivation. They work toward the moment where they can finally say: “Done. On to the next thing.”

  • Attaining results: What ultimately motivates catalysts is creating results. Whereas outputs describe what they produced or accomplished (for example they ran a training or created a resource), results are the effect of these outputs on desired goals. Results mark the changes in the world, while outputs are the ways we make these changes. Effective catalysts work toward the moment where they can finally say: “We changed things, we made a difference.”

  • A strong drive: Catalysts’ motivation to achieve is a massive force. Picture a wind-up car. Once wound up, they accelerate incredibly and race off at a massive speed. Catalysts have a strength of Achievement Drive like that.

You may have heard the adage, “After all is said and done, more is said than done.” Not so with effective catalysts. They get things done.

Effective catalysts are entrepreneurial leaders, of whom it has been written: “The entrepreneur lives in the future, never in the past, rarely in the present (Gerber, 2004). Their strong Achievement Drive propels them toward the future they envision.

Achievement Drive functions as a locomotive that moves a whole train “movement ministry” forward.

What others say about Achievement Drive in catalysts

Other writers have identified this trait with movement catalysts before my research verified it. Daniel Sinclair describes apostolic leaders as: “They are the kind who … make things happen” (Sinclair, 2005:6).

David and Paul Watson, writing of Disciple Making Movements, present “a determination to succeed” as one quality of “what separates great leaders from good leaders” (Watson and Watson, 2014: 202).

Bill Smith, called the “father of movements,” said that among the essential traits of movement catalysts are: “action-focused, results-oriented” (Smith, 2014:38). 

What Paul says about Achievement Drive in catalysts

The movement catalyst Saint Paul reflects on Achievement Drive in ministry in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:  

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

He addresses four aspects of ministry that are relevant for Achievement Drive: training, racing, winning, and the reward.

Training: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training” (verse 24). “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave” (verse 27).  To train means to adjust one’s lifestyle, so as to be as fit as possible for the race. This means to be in top shape in all four dimensions of life:

  • Spiritual: be connected with God

  • Mental: be focused

  • Emotional: have positive energy

  • Physical: have high energy 

Racing: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (verse 24). The race is our ministry. To race means to aim for the finish line.

Winning: “Run in such a way as to get the prize” (verse 24). “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air” (verse 27). To win means to reach the finish line, or to hit the intended target, to achieve God’s intended outcomes.

Reward: “Only one gets the prize. Run in such a way as to get the prize” (verse 24). “We do it to get a crown that will last forever” (verse 26). To get the prize, the eternal crown, means to receive the most meaningful reward, the Father’s praise when He says: “Well done, you have been faithful.” And then to live in his pleasure and delight, in this life and eternity. 

Paul, in his own movement ministry, had a drive to reach the finish line and achieve the outcomes to which God had called him. He arranged his lifestyle to strengthen that drive, so as to run his best.

The contributions of Achievement Drive

Achievement Drive is an inner engine of effective catalysts. It serves four purposes:

Moves forward: It functions as a locomotive that moves a whole train (the entire movement ministry) forward. 

Moves to outcomes: It not only causes forward motion, but also moves the ministry to desired outcomes. It takes the train of movement ministry to its destination. It ensures that things get done, results are attained, and change happens.

Overcomes hurdles and opposition: Its massive force gives the power to pull the train up a hill, press through difficult terrain and overcome opposition and resistance. 

Persists till breakthrough: It feeds strong persistence over the long haul, and does not give up until movement breakthrough is achieved. (See my blog on Persistence.) It can pull a train over thousands of miles.

What we need to understand about our psyche

In order to really benefit, let’s take a quick dive into our own psyche and its inner workings. We can benefit from the expertise of psychologists and leadership experts who have analyzed the human soul, by comparing several aspects of achievement.

Achievement need – Henry Murray (1938:164) was the first to describe achievement need in the human soul. Someone with an achievement need experiences an emotional need, and to meet that need responds by setting out to achieve something. Here the motivation springs from an internal deficit, and achievement is chosen as an external means to meet that deficit.

Achievement motivation – David McClelland (1987) developed the most comprehensive model to understand achievement and how it motivates. Achievement motivation is a neutral term describing pursuit of achievements as a positive motivating factor. It may come out of a need, but it also may rather be fueled by a positive vision.

Achievement drive – Ralph Stogdill was the first to identify this as a leader trait (Stogdill 1948). His definition aligns with the one my research identified for effective catalysts: a very strong motivation to get things done and attain results.

Achievement orientation – If one’s achievement motivation is stronger than one’s people-orientation, it becomes an achievement orientation. This means pursuing progress toward achievement is more important than the people with whom one interacts in the pursuit. This will lead to problematic leadership behaviors.

The most accurate term to describe the trait effective catalysts exhibit is Achievement Drive. Their energy to achieve outcomes is a strong inner drive. It is not fueled by an emotional need but by their vision.

To hone your Achievement Drive, you need to direct your heart desires.

The shadows of Achievement Drive

Achievement Drive is a positive force that greatly contributes to a movement. However, it can turn into a problem if it becomes the overarching and strongest motivator in ministry.

  • If Achievement Drive becomes stronger than a catalyst’s hunger for God, and the catalysts wants a movement more than they want God himself, achievement has become an idol. (See my blog “When We Want Movements Too Much”.)

  • If Achievement Drive becomes stronger than the motivation to love people, a leader turns people into a commodity. Many of us have met leaders who love their vision more than they love the people they lead, with the result that people feel used. (See my blog “Tangible Love in the Life of Catalysts”.)

  • If we serve in ministry and don’t experience our true value as a beloved son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, we experience an inner emptiness. If we don’t experience full acceptance in who we are, and don’t feel we are enough, we seek to fill that void with external validation. Seeking validation in achievement happens commonly, but this shadow of Achievement Drive must be addressed.

  • When Achievement Drive is actually an achievement need, arising from a personal internal deficit, the catalyst’s misguided motivation will impede ministry fruitfulness.

When looking merely at the outward behavior of two catalysts with a strong Achievement Drive, it may look identical. Their motivations, however, may differ radically. Effective catalysts are not driven – neither by achievement nor anything else. They actively steer their inner drive. They direct their heart and balance their Achievement Drive with other motivations. Two motivations are stronger and govern over their achievement drive – their Hunger for God and their Tangible Love of people.

To hone your Achievement Drive, you need to direct your desires in these three ways:

  1. Your Achievement Drive must be strong in your pursuit of a movement.

  2. Your Achievement Drive must not get too strong: not stronger than your Hunger for God and your love for others. 

  3. So, strengthen your Achievement Drive, but strengthen even more your Hunger for God and your love for others.

My research data confirms this. While the differences are not strong, the rating for love and Hunger for God are stronger with effective catalysts than their rating for Achievement Drive.

Table: Motivation Traits for Catalysts and Non-Catalysts





Tangible Love




Hunger for God




Achievement Drive




Therefore we must regularly search our hearts and clarify what actually drives us. If we neglect to direct and order our motivations in ways that please God, we could be doing all the right things outwardly but missing God’s blessing on our efforts toward the goal. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chr. 16:9). All our hard work toward a movement may be thwarted by wrong motivations.

Growth Path

Here are specific steps you can take, gleaned from the lives of effective movement catalysts and my own experience:

Formulate your outcomes precisely: You can sharpen your outcome orientation by formulating very precisely the outcomes you want to achieve. This works most powerfully when done in the third person and future tense. For example, I set as outcome before writing this blog: Emanuel will have written a high-quality blog that will motivate readers to strengthen their Achievement Drive and examine their motivations for ministry.

Visualize your outcomes: Our heart connects with and is energized by images more than words. Therefore, we strengthen our Achievement Drive by picturing vividly the desirable outcome. 

Put up visual reminders: Posting visuals of the outcomes we want to achieve, wherever our eyes and team members’ eyes often fall, reconnects us with our desired outcomes and strengthens our Achievement Drive. We can post these reminders on walls, computer screens, or notepads. 

Create a laser-sharp focus: In our pursuit of the finish line, less is more. Engaging in less helps us focus on the few outcomes that matter most.  We must engage in the relentless pursuit of less, to focus only on what matters most. Warren Buffet says: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” Saying “Yes” to only a very few things helps us focus and bundles our Achievement Drive.

Self-coaching and coaching questions

  • How strong is my Achievement Drive?

  • How strong is my Achievement Drive compared to my hunger for God? 

  • How strong is my Achievement Drive compared to my love for people?

  • What do I need to change in my heart to ensure my motivations are aligned with God’s values?

  • Which of the steps on the Growth Path do I want to practice deliberately to strengthen my Achievement Drive?

  • Does what I am doing contribute to the overall vision? How essentially?

  • What do I need to say “No” to and cut, to create a more laser-sharp focus?

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from you. What are YOUR thoughts? What is your experience? Leave a comment below! If you prefer to private message me, you can use the contact form.

Learn more about the other Catalytic Qualities besides Achievement Drive in my book Movement Catalysts. You can order your copy here

If you found this helpful, how about you share this blog with your network?

Emanuel Prinz – Father’s Beloved & Movement Activist


Garrison, David. 2014. A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is Drawing Muslims Around the World to Faith in Jesus. Midlothian: WIGTake Resources. 

Gerber, Michael E. 2004. The E-Myth Revisited. New York: Harper Business.

McClelland, David C. 1987. Human Motivation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sinclair, Daniel. 2005. A Vision of the Possible: Pioneer Church Planting in Teams. Pasadena: Authentic Media.

Smith, Steve 2014. A Profile of a Movement Catalyst. Mission Frontiers 36, 38-41.

Stogdill, Ralph M. 1948. Personal factors associated with leadership: A survey of the literature. Journal of Psychology 25, 35-71.

Watson, David & Watson, Paul 2014. Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Murray, Henry A. 1938. Explorations in Personality. New York: Oxford University Press.

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