Abraham Maslow’s approach to psychology was unique. He was the man responsible for identifying our “Hierarchy of Needs,” which describes how human beings prioritize getting their needs met. His diagram placed the most pressing “psychological” or basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid. Breathing, food, water, sex and sleep are among the basic needs that must be met before we can fulfill any others in his 5-layer pyramid. The remaining needs in ascending order are safety, love/belonging, esteem and finally self-actualization at the very top.
Among the many people Maslow studied, he identified some as psychologically healthy, living and performing at their peak. He called them self-actualizers. Presumably, they reach this point when they’re certain that all the lower level needs have been or can easily be met. This means, among other things, you’re not worried about where your next meal or mortgage payment will come from, you have genuine self-confidence, you feel safe and you’re satisfied with your social circle.
There are traits that Maslow associated with self-actualizers. The more of these traits you possess, or can develop, the stronger your psychological health. How many of these do you possess?
- Self-actualizers live in the present moment – the now, not the past or future.
- They are self and other accepting,
- They are spontaneous, and they are creative problem solvers.
- They handle ambiguity without anxiety, are autonomous, independent and accept the power of personal choice.
- They see beyond limitations of culture and cultural identity.
- Self-actualizers easily identify with and appreciate the full range of humankind.
- Their values and attitudes demonstrate respect for others.
- They have a holistic view of life and consider the ends and the means.
- Their humor is absent hostility.
- They thrive by transcending circumstances and dichotomies.
- They find and trust their inner voice and intuition
- They view all of life as sacred.
- They don’t fear greatness.
If you are a leader or strive to be one, a healthy mind and emotions are central to your effectiveness. And if you’re responsible for identifying or grooming your organization’s future leaders, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one barometer to consider when analyzing a person’s strengths and readiness to lead.