Aspirational picture of man on a mountain

  Personal Needs – who needs them?   

Before I joined Footdown I had a great conversation with the CEO – Mike Roe. This was unlike any interview I had ever had. For one thing Mike made a particular point of asking me what my five personal needs were. This had never happened to me before in my interviews over the years so I was both impressed and pleased. After joining Footdown I came to see that knowing the personal needs of the people in your team is an integral part of what we call ‘living Insight’. For Footdown and an increasing number of our leading edge clients, Insight is much more than an organisational diagnosis system. Knowing the personal needs of each individual and confirming on a regular basis that they correspond well with the values of the organisation is just one example of how we are evolving Insight. 
Why are Personal Needs Important? 
As noted by Jackson and Parry, leader-centred theories of leadership by and large have an overriding expectation that the leader is the active partner in the leadership process. In their words these theories imply that ‘followers do not play an active role in the leadership process’. ‘It is an essentially linear one-way relationship between leaders and followers. The follower is, in effect, a blank slate upon which the leader writes the script’. Just suppose for a minute that these leader-centred theories, which are in the majority, are correct about the passive role of the follower. It is still key to understand the needs and situation of the followers so that leaders can moderate their style (Hershey and Blanchard, 1977 [1]) and check congruence of values (Vroom and Yetton, 1973 [2]); i.e. write the relevant script for each follower. 
When one considers instead follower-centred theories of leadership, the case for knowing the personal needs of the individual becomes critical. Although these theories are less prevalent than leader-centred theories they provide a much more dynamic and in my view more complete model of leadership. For just how dynamic this model is observe what is happening in the Middle East today. One of these follower-centred theories – the social identity theory of leadership – as noted by Jackson and Parry ‘proposes that the extent to which a leader is selected or accepted by a particular group will depend on how “prototypical” she or he is to that group’. In this theory (van Knippenberg and Hogg, 2003 [3]), ‘the leader is picked by followers or chosen to be supported by followers precisely because he or she is most like them’. When Jackson and Parry talk about ‘like’ here, they mean ‘how closely the leader represents the group’s characteristics as well as its aspirations, values and norms’. 
What are my Personal Needs? 
I cheated and now have six personal needs; which are all being met: 
• To work with an inspirational team 
• To make a difference 
• To work on a highly innovative and world leading product 
• To keep on learning 
• To have fun 
• To have a great work/life balance 
1. Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. (1977). Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources (3rd ed.) New Jersey/Prentice Hall 
2. Vroom, Victor H.; Yetton, Phillip W. (1973). Leadership and Decision-Making. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 
3. van Knippenberg, D. & Hogg, M.A. (2003). A social identity model of leadership effectiveness in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 25, 243-295 
It is becoming harder and harder to recruit and retain high quality people; talking to them about their personal needs and following up on a regular basis can help make your organisation a great place to work. If you want to find out more about how we integrate discussion of personal needs into our Living Insight programme please contact us.