Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs

Stage 1 Survival Needs. Biological necessities such as oxygen, food, and water are the most basic and most urgent when threatened. People share this need with all living things.

Stage 2 Security Needs. Survival needs projected into the future include such items as shelter and a reliable supply of food and water. When survival needs are met, we worry next about security, in other words survival over time. Many other species share this need with humans; e.g. squirrels gather nuts in the fall and migratory birds plan ahead for summer or winter habitat.

Stage 3 Belonging Needs. These needs are sometimes called social needs, affiliation needs, or relationship needs. If our survival and security needs are met, our attention turns instinctively to our web of relations. Our belonging needs are shaped and conditioned by early experiences within the universal belonging laboratory, the family. Whenever we move from one place to another, as in graduating from school or getting a new job, we confront the need to figure out where we belong in relation to the other people around us. This need is directly related to the primitive needs for survival and security in light of the helplessness we all face at birth and the need to be nurtured for years before we can fend for ourselves. In some preindustrial cultures, people never go anywhere alone and are terrified if they ever find themselves alone even for a moment. It is strong enough to distort or override rational decision processes. For example, even among highly educated college groups, students and faculty members get all worked up rooting for their own teams against teams from other colleges. In political elections, people often decide whom to vote for based on what group they relate to (Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives) or based on how they imagine their ideal political reference unit (a nation where abortion is banned or where reproductive choice is available, a nation that dominates the world or a nation that collaborates with other nations.) Humans share this need with other primates and with some other species, but in humans it is much more complex.

Stage 4 Ego Esteem Needs. After one fulfills the need to fit in and belong in some social group, one normally feels a need to stand out from the group and achieve a sense of individual integrity, autonomy, and excellence. The internal component to this need is self-esteem; the external component is reputation. For healthy development, the internal self-image and the external reputation should be reasonably similar. People who achieve this level of need are often motivated to seek leadership roles within their group. The need for ego esteem is not the same as selfishness and it is a necessary step on the road to higher levels of need. But if one gets stuck at this level, it can be as dysfunctional as getting stuck at lower levels.

Stage 5 Self-Actualization Needs. This level of need is the only one which does not arise out of a deficit or an absence of anything. People who have fulfilled their need for ego esteem and all the other lower needs may be said to “have it all” and not really need anything more. The need for self-actualization is not about missing anything or needing anything tangible, but is related to a need for growth, understanding, and fulfillment. It arises when one wishes to become “all I can become.” The need for meaning and purpose at this level also means that one becomes more sensitive to large social issues and the welfare of the community, including the whole human community. This is the motivation of saints and the great figures of history. In an advanced developed society like ours, however, it is possible for many people to be moved by self-actualization needs. One example of self-actualizing behavior that is becoming more and more common is the widespread tendency of people who have spent years accumulating wealth to turn around and give it away. The Rockefeller, Ford, and Gates Foundations are just the most obvious cases of lower-level need fulfillment giving way to philanthropic self-actualization. Another manifestation of this need that is very encouraging for the human community over the long term is the growth of nonprofit, philanthropic, community-service, and service-learning activities, especially among young people. The fastest-growing enterprise on the planet now is, in fact, nonprofit activity, not for-profit business activity or government-sponsored activity.
 
The principle of "prepotency" drives the movement of human need from level to level. This principle claims that the lowest unfulfilled need will motivate behavior at any given moment and that a need ceases to motivate when it is fulfilled. Thus a starving person will be highly motivated to eat, but after eating a dozen cheeseburgers will cease to be hungry and will move on to the next level of need. In general, the fulfillment of any need automatically leads to the arousal of the next higher level of need. As one’s survival is assured, one thinks about security; as security is assured, one thinks about belonging needs; when one feels accepted in a satisfying reference group, one thinks about standing out from the group and achieving individual, personal goals; and as one achieves personal goals, one eventually worries about the welfare of others and the meaning of life.
 
 Abraham Maslow 
 
Applications for effective leadership:

1. Leaders tend to be a bit higher on the hierarchy of need than followers. This is because people who have satisfied a need can help others satisfy it as well. The natural tendency to move up the hierarchy means that we will seek to avoid moving downward; thus we are not likely to follow leaders at lower levels than we are, unless something in the environment is confusing (as in the case of dysfunctional leaders like Adolf Hitler.)

2. Effective leaders must be flexible and responsive to new realities. Leaders must recognize that their success in helping group members solve any given problem or fulfill any given need will result in a new set of circumstances and a new set of needs. Leaders who can’t move up the levels will be left behind as followers cease to be motivated by the needs they have already fulfilled. Effective leaders are flexible, not stubborn or unwilling to address new realities. Sometimes leaders are really good at addressing needs at lower levels because of their own passion about those needs, but that very passion might interfere with their ability to grow and adapt to changing circumstances.

3. There are two general types of need relative to leadership and management. Management experts have adapted Maslow’s hierarchy into two general levels: the first three levels of the hierarchy, sometimes called “satisficers,” and the top two levels, sometimes called “motivators.” The gist of this approach is to encourage managers to make sure that workers’ lower needs are met so they are not distracted by fear, insecurity, and feelings of isolation and alienation from fellow workers. If the survival, security, and belonging needs are met within the workplace, then workers will be free to work at the higher levels where creativity, imagination, and cooperation are more common. The more creative, complex, and high-tech the work, the more important it is for workers to perform at the top levels of need. This point relates directly to the next one.

4. Theory X and Theory Y are relevant to the motivation of followers. Douglas McGregor based much of his thinking about Theory X and Theory Y on Maslow’s insights about human need and motivation. When people are stuck at the lower levels of need, they are more likely to behave in Theory Y ways and appear selfish, unwilling to take responsibility, and narrow-minded. The higher people go on the hierarchy of need, the more able they are to take responsibility for work that is complex, creative, and cooperative. Leaders and managers can try to make sure their followers are in tune with the qualities of Theory Y by making sure that followers’ needs for survival, security, and belonging are met, and that the challenges they address are at least partly in the realms of ego esteem and self-actualization.

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