There are three fundamental reasons why we need leaders:
We are born with a natural desire to be led.
We do not need leaders because society tells us we do, and we do not need leaders because our employers enforce it upon us, we need leaders because we are predisposed with an inherent need to be guided, nurtured and supported throughout our lives.
Our natural desire to seek leadership can be linked to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which will be explained in this article.
There are three fundamental reasons why we need leaders.
The first fundamental reason why we need leaders is associated with our fundamental human need for survival. We will do anything and everything to survive and sustain our life.
As children we typically look to our parents for leadership and they will have a significant influence on our safety. They achieve this by aiming to remove threats and barriers which may put our safety at risk.
As we grow and develop our parents will hopefully have taught us sufficiently so that we are able to keep ourselves safe and healthy.
However, when we reach adulthood we soon find ourselves in new and challenging situations which we have never encountered before.
This can result in us feeling threatened and insecure, not necessarily for our personal safety or our life, but more for our comfort, pride, integrity and future success.
We will naturally seek leadership, guidance and support from others who can provide it in order to minimise any threats and barriers we are facing.
If our ability to perform to our desired standard is threatened, it can have a negative impact on our future success and progress.
The second reason why we need leaders is associated with the timeless question humans have asked, “why are we here?”
Although we have never found a definitive answer to this question it does not stop us from trying. We have a natural desire to understand our purpose and to feel a sense of meaning and belonging in our life.
Leaders are not able to answer the profound question of, “why we are here?” in its fullest sense.
However, they are able to answer this question in relation to our work and life. We seek leadership to provide an answer to this question.
Good leaders are visionaries and are able to articulate purpose and meaning in a way which inspires and motivates others.
Leaders help us to identify, understand and refine our purpose. They help us to align our thoughts and clarify the reasons behind our work.
Humans seek answers and understanding to everything they do and leaders go some way to support this need.
The third reason why we need leaders is associated with our desire to grow and develop in order to live a successful life.
This often becomes more significant once threats have been minimised and purpose has been clarified as a sound platform will have been established for us to succeed.
It is natural to want to be the best you can be, succeed in what you do, learn, grow and develop. Our natural desire to be successful builds upon our need for security and purpose.
The more we achieve and progress in our careers and lives, typically, the more secure we will be and the more purpose and belonging can be accomplished.
As children, our parents and school teachers provide us with leadership to support our achievements, but as we find ourselves in new and challenging situations as adults, we are forced to seek leadership from new and more diverse sources.
Good leaders will greatly enhance our potential for success and achievement through maximising our ability to performance.
They have the ability to support and guide us in all our endeavours. They provide us with what we need, allow us freedom to perform, empower us, reward us and generally facilitate our progress in any way they can.
The three reasons why we need leaders – security, purpose and achievement – can be neatly aligned with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was first proposed by Abraham Maslow, in 1943, in his paper entitled, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ in Psychological Review.
The lowest two tiers of Maslow’s pyramid are concerns with ‘physiological needs’ and ‘safety needs’. These are the essential needs for humans and are aligned with the first reason we need leaders – security.
The middle two tiers of the pyramid are concerned with ‘love and belonging’ and ‘esteem’. With the essential foundation of security in place, love, belonging and esteem can be developed which aligns with the second reason we need leaders – purpose.
The top tier of the pyramid is concerned with ‘self-actualisation’ and becoming the best possible person we can be. This aligns well with the third reason we need leaders – achievement.
Maslow’s hierarchical model of motivation and needs provides a good framework for understanding the role leaders play in supporting others.
If you are interested in exploring this theory in more detail, I would recommend O’Connor and Yballe (2007) who have written a critical review of Maslow’s theory.
I would also suggest you read my article which summarises leadership styles as this outlines a range of leadership approaches, how and when they can be used, along with the relative advantages and disadvantages of using each.