McClelland’s Needs Theory
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of David McClelland is flexibility. I appreciate that his ideas are not “one size fits all.” While he does assert people are motivated by high-level needs — manifest needs, he recognizes that individuals bring their own personality and experiences to the mix. Yes, people share typical traits but are, at the same time, unique.
Everyone is driven by power, love, and achievement, but “different needs are dominant in different people” (Nelson and Quick 157). In essence, different things make us tick. I appreciate this humanistic approach to understanding motivation because it looks at what’s on the inside. It challenges us to realize there’s more than meets the eye.
“McClelland maintains that each of us has a Motivation Profile” (Forbes 64).
But, what does this mean in the real world…in the business world? I think, it inspires leaders to refrain from operating on “auto pilot” and instead take a more ...view middle of the document...
McClelland 2). Furthermore, people with a high need for achievement want feedback, specifically job-related feedback (The Three Basic Approaches to Improving Productivity: David C. McClelland 2). Finally, they do not like interference, whether in the form of external events or other people, when it comes to accomplishing their goals (Nelson and Quick 158).
“The need for power is concerned with making an impact on others, the desire to influence others, the urge to change people or events, and the desire to make a difference in life” (Nelson and Quick 158). Sounds simple. But it’s important we take a deeper look and draw a distinction, as McClelland did, between socialized power and personalized power. Socialized power is used for the collective good; it’s about the benefit of all and puts “we” in to the equation. Personalized power, on the other hand, is all about “me.”
McClelland coins socialized power as the “positive face of power” and personalized power the “negative face of power” – one being obviously more constructive than the other (Nelson and Quick 365). To me, a prime example of someone who was motivated by power above was Hitler. He influenced history but certainly at the expense, not to the benefit of society. McClelland would likely dub Hitler “Machiavellian” — an extremist “willing to do whatever it takes to get one’s own way” (Nelson and Quick 365).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I offer Michael J. Fox as a powerful figure who has used his position to accomplish a greater good. His cause: Parkinson’s disease. And, although he is a victim of the incurable disease, his efforts to find a cure are driven by the welfare of others. Quite frankly, his clock is ticking. Chances are he will not reap the benefit of his own efforts, but others will. This drives him to make a difference.
The last need McClelland identified is the need for affiliation. People motivated by affiliation consider building and maintaining relationships their top priority (Nelson and Quick 158). In my own words, these individuals simply want to fit in, to be liked.
My guess is that they view the organization as a family unit. We know they express and welcome emotion (Nelson and Quick 159). They are team players and by nature extraordinary communicators (Forbes 64).