6 psychological needs for good leadership

We must no longer allow ourselves to be fooled by controlling leaders and their rational management theories. It is time to open our eyes and choose leaders who are aware of our ancient psychological DNA.

According to Manfred Kets de Vries, organizations resemble prisons and many leaders are idiots. Writer Leon Schaepkens goes a bit far. He writes in his book 10 million years of leadership – how successful leaders meet ancient basic needs (affiliate) that leadership is in urgent need of overhaul.

We are not nearly as rational as we think. Everyone strives for the 6 basic psychological needs:

  1. Safety
  2. Connectedness
  3. Valuation
  4. Learning to deal with boundaries
  5. Autonomy
  6. Zelfexpressie

I share a highlight, tip or example from the book about each basic need.

1. Safety

If there is a culture of fear in an organization, you can see this in the so-called ‘error signals’. At the back of the book you can check how the basic needs in your organization are doing, including error signals. An example of an error signal: There is a strong gossip circuit.

2. Connectedness

People feel more connected to each other and the organization if there is a clear goal that is also openly communicated. Simply formulate what matters in your organization. What do you think as an owner and what do you want? It’s not so much about money, but about meaning.

For example, look at what Bill Gates wanted: a computer on every table, in every house, running Microsoft software.

Or what JF Kennedy wanted: a man on the moon who also returned home safely. In this way you create more involvement and thus connectedness.

Tip: increase the openness of a team or organization by building a gallery at a management meeting. In this way, employees can attend a meeting.

You can also create connection by working towards equality. For example: The Capuchin monkey. The capuchin monkey was satisfied with a cucumber slice as a reward for performing a certain task. However, she started to protest when she saw that another monkey was rewarded with grapes for the same achievement. The monkey thought that was unfair.

Inequality breeds jealousy and is disastrous for the sense of connection. The feeling of inequality can already arise in the parking lot. Why does the director have his own place near the entrance and an employee does not?

3. Appreciation

Besides the fact that Schaepkens makes a case for the academy of basic needs, he also advises positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is the introduction of examples that can contradict the lack of ‘pride’ or belief in one’s self.

So when people think they’ve done something wrong, positive self-talk provides the evidence to disprove negative self-concepts.

4. Learning to deal with boundaries

Community was the standard in our nomadic era. You needed each other to survive. Collaboration preferred over individual success.

Schaepkens argues for the mission and vision of an organization as an inspiring boundary. As an example, he gives how a job interview at Google goes. If you want to work at Google, you have to have a conversation with 4 separate interviewers. A different topic is discussed in each conversation. It revolves around personal leadership, culture (called Googleness), knowledge of the field and cognitive skills.

5. Autonomy

The hierarchical idea that the top thinks and then the employee executes no longer applies. Depending on your role and talent (not your position), you as an employee have something to add at any time: ‘Who knows, may say so.’

Tile wisdom about leadership: "Who knows may say it."

The best attitude is: the best can say it and that is not always the boss. This means that employees are more daring and that they can be more creative.

6. Zelfexpressie

Setting high standards for yourself and others can lead to less self-expression and spontaneity. This not only happens to people, but also to organizations. There, too, self-expression and spontaneity are sometimes hard to find. Man has become a homo economicus, a means of production. It is therefore not surprising that ADHD is on the rise. The lack of play and movement prevents children from expending their energy.

Tip: in addition to having a siesta, creating moments of musing for good ideas to bubble up, he suggests the idea of ​​’thinking the other way around’ every now and then. Instead of everything having to be done according to the rules, he suggests thinking like the customer for once. What would the customer want us to do?

The final definition he gives:

Your talents x your happy side x added value = (work) happiness.

For me personally, this was the most valuable tip:

Humans have talents and survival strategies. The latter is what you call your coping style. Coping is human.

The trick is to use your talents as much as possible instead of your coping style under increasing pressure. This applies to managers, employees and everyone in the workplace. Instead of deploying your defense mechanisms, overrule you the one with your talent. I think this tip is so logical and genius at the same time. He believes that self-reflection as a leader is indispensable for the growth of your team or organization.

Do you want to help yourself and your organization as a manager? Then at least read chapter 10 in which sheeps describes a roadmap of all the steps and phases that you go through as a manager. You just get excited about it.


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