Becoming an effective leader

2.2 - Review own ability to motivate, delegate and empower others

Motivation Theory

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


One of the earliest models of motivation, developed by Dr Abraham Maslow, a clinical psychologist, is a needs-based framework of human motivation. Maslow’s Theory of Motivation, now known as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, was set out in his book Motivation and Personality in 1954. His theory, based on observation and analysis of his own clinical practice, asserted that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower factors need to be satisfied before higher needs can be met.


According to Maslow, there are general types of needs (physiological, survival and safety, love, and esteem) that must be satisfied before a person can act unselfishly. Maslow called these needs ‘deficiency needs’. He suggested that as long as people are motivated to satisfy or meet the various needs at each of the hierarchical levels, they would continue to grow, ultimately achieving self-actualisation.


In terms of workplace motivation, it is important that managers and leaders understand that people will be motivated to meet the immediate, or active, need before giving any priority  to  other  needs. Maslow's  model  indicates  that  fundamental,  lower-order needs like safety and physiological requirements have to be satisfied in order to strive to achieve the higher-level motivators or needs. The corollary to this is that after a need has been satisfied it ceases to act as a motivator, with the next need on the pyramid superseding it as a motivator. Maslow observed that achievement of self-actualisation is not an end in itself. He considered self-actualisation to be the level at which personal growth can continue ad infinitum.


Malsow’s Hierarchy of  Needs  is  often depicted  as  a triangle  or pyramid.

The list that you have drawn up will be useful for you as a manager when looking for ways to enhance workplace motivation. The key to making best use of Maslow’s theory is to remember that each member of staff will be motivated by different things at different times; in other words their needs will change through the course of their employment.

Activity - Carry out some research to discover what criticisms are made of Maslow's hierarchy.