Turn Your Leadership Upside-Down
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has long been a staple theory for understanding human behavioral psychology and motivation. The hierarchy is illustrated as a pyramid, with the more basic, fundamental needs at the bottom and self-actualization at the top. It illustrates that our most basic needs must be met before we will be motivated to focus on higher-level needs.
The hierarchy reveals an opportunity to see a leadership principle in action: Focus on your team’s interests ahead of your own.
And Your Point Is…?
Something vitally important happens in your leadership when you intentionally minimize your own interests and aspirations for the sake of those you lead.
Leaders who give off the vibe that they are the most important person on the team, that their personal agenda trumps everyone else’s, that others are there to support them, who are primarily motivated by their own success in the organization … they are (at some point) shooting their leadership effectiveness in the foot. This creates a lack of trust, unhealthy competition, a lack of transparency and ultimately an unwillingness to collaborate and work together as a team.
Leaders who give off the vibe that they are the most important person … are shooting their leadership effectiveness in the foot.
By contrast, your leadership takes on a whole new authenticity when the people you’re leading realize you’re prioritizing their interests above your own. It creates a new level of respect and earns you the right to lead and influence them. With their more basic needs met, they will then actualize and produce for you.
In essence, turn your aspirations and motivations upside down: Set others up to experience their greatest actualization first. This sets the stage for your personal needs for esteem, belongingness, community and safety to then be realized as a result.
Also, to be clear: This doesn’t mean sacrificing your own personal care or growth. You should still (so to speak) put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
You should still (so to speak) put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
The Big Picture
I’m not suggesting Maslow was in any way wrong. I am, however, suggesting that a leadership application of Maslow’s hierarchy comes in (counterintuitively and somewhat sacrificially) suspending or delaying your own basic needs in order to first meet those of your team.
Set others up to experience their greatest actualization first.
Your Next Step
How can you know how your team (not you) perceives your efforts to meet put their needs and interests ahead of your own?
What can you do today to put this into practice—even to a small degree?