Discussions of human needs are often limited to those that keep our hearts beating – oxygen, water and food. However, life is about more than simply taking breaths.

In 1943 the psychologist Abraham Maslow acknowledged this in some research in which he discussed the ‘Hierarchy of (human) Needs’. The paper suggested that all human beings in contemporary society shared a commonality in human needs.

Each human being has the physiological need for ‘survival’. If everything was stripped away from a person, leaving nothing but basic existence, the need to survive would predominate. No matter how low the self esteem or poor the self image is for an individual, Maslow suggests that the sustainment of our own existence is foremost in the hierarchy of needs.

This need in people can be witnessed in the workplace when a company is undergoing change management strategy as a way to stay afloat in times of trial. Leadership skills are here demonstrated in the workplace by seeking out a suitable source of resources for the sustainment of the ‘system’. For instance, resources might be in the form of leads for the sales team or component parts for the engineering team.

Once the need for survival is met we then proceed to seek out ways of maintaining that survival. The leader then needs to create defences against attack from opposing forces that may attempt to steal or destroy, hence the next level in the hierarchy is ‘security.’

The security leadership skills demonstrated by the Sales Manager would be things like making sure that a competitor analysis is regularly conducted to stay ahead in the marketplace.

The Production Manager would demonstrate his/her leadership skills by performing a cost analysis for the component parts that the department procures.

All project management should be controlled statistically as well as with emotional intelligence, therefore acknowledging both the head and the heart.

Upon meeting the need for security, individuals, teams and organisations will pursue a sense of ‘belonging’. This is to satisfy a need to belong (to people, systems, culture, society, God) and that things within our environment also belong to us.

In the workplace, this need is satisfied for an individual when s/he is invited to belong to a team, asked to collaborate on a project or simply recruited to join an organisation. Leadership skills are required in times of change management when a team has low morale or in times of conflict management when team members are in dispute. It is in these moments that individuals begin to consider ‘belonging’ to a new team or organisation.

The need for belonging can also be met through the act of goal setting and planning since the individual creates for him/herself an affinity with other people that are engaged in similar activities.

Poet John Donne’s famous quote, ‘no man is an island’, suggests that we all have an innate need to connect with other people and to stay connected – to start a family, build friendships, teams and become part of a social order or class.

The need for belonging, however, is threatened if the leader or manager lacks interpersonal skills, or effective communication skills, since the essential ingredients of any productive team will be lost; namely trust and rapport.

Once a sense of belonging has been achieved, the human being will pursue a sense of ‘importance’ which is the next level in the hierarchy of needs.

Considered to be the founder of the modern human relations movement and populariser of the need in the workplace for people skills, Dale Carnegie wrote a list of nine famous principles for developing interpersonal skills. Principle nine is to ‘Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.’

Carnegie recognised this human need in everyone and so did Maslow. A leader might strive to reach the top of his/her profession or a team may pull together to go beyond their targets to achieve recognition within the organisation. The organisation itself might strive to get noticed in an industry journal as a way of enhancing its profile in the marketplace.

Meeting the need for significance can be best exemplified by examining an individual’s place or position in society or the group or unit to which s/he now belongs. This can be the attainment of authority, the exercising of a competitive spirit or the noble task of servant leadership.

This need for significance is about determining what the ultimate destiny is for the person and once identified, it becomes his/her life-long focus, offering meaning and purpose to their existence as well as significantly influencing the development of the identity of that person.

Leadership skills are demonstrated when the leader or manager acknowledges this need in his/her team by rewarding team members with respectable job titles and positions within the team and organisation.

The highest level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the need for ‘self-actualisation’. This is the need that the leader or manager has to embrace in order to fulfill their own potential and tap into their own unique resources that distinguish them from everyone else.

It is the hunger that drives the established individual in the organisation to undertake goal setting exercises that go beyond previous targets they have set for themselves. This need goes beyond competitiveness, which is attributed to the need for significance; rather, it is the internal striving to excel and cross boundaries, which have never been explored in one’s own lifetime.

Using sensory acuity and intelligent questioning the leader or manager can identify, from the behaviour of a particular team member, what specific human needs must be met from moment to moment. The opportunity to exercise leadership skills will immediately follow with the challenge to assist team members in finding resourceful ways to address those needs.

Richard Bandler, the co-creator of NLP, once said that the purpose of NLP was to offer to the individual more behavioural choice. Therefore to assist an individual to become consciously aware of further choices that are available to them is to encourage the art of personal responsibility, which lies at the core of self management skills. As a direct consequence of taking such action, the leader will, all the more, develop for him/herself a loyal and productive team that trusts and respects their leadership style and position of authority within the organisation.

About the Author
Nicholas C. Hill FIC FInstLM is an INLPTA licensed NLP Business Trainer (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Executive Master Coach. As Managing Director for The Hill Consultancy Ltd, he designs and delivers NLP Training courses in leadership development and management development. http://www.nicholashill.com / 0845 678 9900




Be Sociable, Share!