Needs to be Known

The great philosopher Socrates said that “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Oh great one, then please do tell how we come to know ourselves. Fortunately, this is where the passage of time works in our favor.

It is estimated that Socrates lived between the years of 470 to 399 BC. The passage of so many centuries has allowed the human race to discover more and more about just who we are. The field of psychology has yielded many studies, theories and tools to help us.

Abraham Harold Maslow (1908-1970) was an American psychologist who helped us tremendously in the area of self-awareness. His development of the hierarchy of needs gives us a way to organize and think about our development as a human being. While it is easy to recognize the development needs of a young person, the older we get the more difficult it is to determine where we are on this spectrum of development.

As I wrote about last week, self-awareness is critical for success in your role as a leader. Understanding our basic and more advanced needs as represented in Maslow’s hierarchy allows us to understand our motivations and the motivations of those around us.

Can you be a leader without self-awareness? Yes. Just as when we were kids and there was always someone who took charge of the activity during recess. That person was a leader of some stature. Reflecting back though, you may realize that the person’s leadership was all about getting his or her needs met, quite possibly those of safety or belonging. You may have come to recognize this not as leadership but as bullying, hence the importance of understanding just where you are on Maslow’s hierarchy.

Leadership in its truest definition is the ability to help others achieve. Whether the object of achievement is a business objective, a skirmish on a field of battle, or personal growth, we cannot lead others until we know ourselves. We cannot recognize potential in others unless we can see our own and recognize our weaknesses. To support others in growth and development is the highest form of leadership. Do you know enough about yourself to lead others?

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