The Maslow Theory of Motivation also known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” model was developed between 1943-1954, and first widely published in “Motivation and Personality” in 1954. Starting from the premise that each human being is motivated by needs that are inborn, presumably as a result of tens of thousands of years of evolution, here is the hierarchy in ascending order:
(1) Physiological needs
These are the very basic needs such as air, water, food, sleep, sex, etc. When these are not satisfied we may feel sickness, irritation, pain, discomfort, etc. These feelings motivate us to alleviate them as soon as possible to establish homeostasis. Once they are alleviated, we may think about other things.
(2) Safety needs
These have to do with establishing stability and consistency in a chaotic world. These needs are mostly psychological in nature. We need the security of a home and family. However, if a family is dysfunction, i.e., an abused child – cannot move to the next level as she is continuously fearful for her safety. Love and a sense of belonging are postponed until she feel safe.
(3) Love and needs of belonging
Humans have [in varying degrees of intensity] a strong desire to affiliate by joining groups such as societies, clubs, professional associations, churches and religious groups etc. There is a universal need to feel love and acceptance by others.
(4) Self-Esteem needs
There are essentially two types of esteem needs: self-esteem resulting from competence or mastery of a task; and the esteem and good opinion of other people.
(5) The need for self-actualisation
Maslow theory of motivation proposes that people who have all their “lower order” needs met progress towards the fulfilment their potential. Typically this can include the pursuit of knowledge, peace, esthetic experiences, self-fulfillment, oneness with God, nirvana, enlightenment etc. So ultimately this is all to do with the desire for self transcendence.
A paradigm shift that forms the basis for good leadership and successful change management
The Maslow theory of motivation brought a new face to the study of human behaviour. Maslow was inspired by greatness in the minds of others, and his own special contribution to the field of motivational psychology led to the creation of the concept of Humanistic Psychology. Most psychologists prior to Maslow had focused on the mentally ill and the abnormal. In complete contrast the Maslow theory of motivation investigated and attempted to define positive mental health.
In so doing, he instigated a paradigm shift via Humanistic Psychology – predicated on the belief that humans are not simply blindly reacting to situations, but trying to accomplish something greater. This new approach represented in the Maslow theory of motivation became the source of many new and different therapies, all grounded in the belief that people possess the inner resources for growth and healing and that the point of therapy is to help remove obstacles to individuals’ achieving them.
It also forms the basis of much current understanding of what constitutes good leadership and forms a major foundation of prevailing models and theories of successful change management. The most fundamental value of this theory is to emphasise and remind those of us involved in leading and managing change of the complexity and multi-facted nature of human needs and motivational drives. Closely aligned to that observation is the difficult realisation that people have transcendent needs and aspirations as well as the more prosaic needs of survival and “pay and rations”.
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