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Opinion: Maslow’s motivational theory applied to African leadership


Maslow, one of the greatest organisational theorist of modern times stated that employees in an organisation have different needs and aspirations. He arranges these needs and aspirations in a form of pyramid from basic and psychological needs at the base of the pyramid to self-esteem and self-actualisation needs at it's apex.

He theorised that the level and nature of inducement that will motivate employees to be more productive in their individual positions should be tailored to their specific needs, meaning their distinctive levels in the pyramid.

Marlow recognised that individual needs or levels are not static but once one’s need is fulfilled or achieved, a higher need or level becomes motivational. Those who are wealthy already cannot be motivated by increased salaries and those who are in the job because it satisfies their social needs will have a different motivation appetite. That means organisation leadership should endeavour to understand the dynamics of motivational pyramid to ensure staff remain motivated.

How does Maslow’s motivational pyramid related to recognition and selection of leaders especially in African sub-continent. My desire is to relate his theory to African leadership not in an academic fashion but as passing exegesis that tease readers imaginations and invite them to look at Maslow's theory deeply. Those at the top of the pyramid are at a level of self- actualisation and that level has its own unique attendant needs for satisfaction. People who are already financially accomplished, increased wages as a reward is not the motivating factor. It is recognition, power, prestige and desire to leave an abiding legacy that is the key motivating factor. Such people are likely to demonstrate good leadership so that they leave a mark or reputation as one who create much development and excellent stewardship record. You can hardly corrupt such leaders because corruption will taint their image and reputation which they fervently endeavour to preserve a good legacy.

Therefore in my opinion, Africa need leaders at such a level for obvious reasons. On the other hand, if we elect leaders at the bottom of Maslow's pyramid (basic needs like shelter, sustainable income etc) such leaders are yearning to climb up the pyramid because they have not achieved many life aspirations yet.

They greedily want to catch up with others who they might preserved some jealousy for. They want to amaze wealth quickly and much greed and recklessness. It is very easy to corrupt such leaders because they are in a hurry to catch up. I assume all leaders who came to power in a military coup might fall in that category hence they were all quick to enrich themselves. What do you expect a person who have never owned a car or a house to do when he/she has opportunity to amass wealth?

Look at YAYA Jammeh, the time he came to power, he was at the basic need of the pyramid. He came as a poor man, a pauper and immediately he saw the necessity to ascend to the peak where he thinks acquiring wealth is the greatest motivation. He thought the first thing he had to do was, to gather wealth as quickly as possible by any means necessary because he never owned anything before, not even a bicycle much more a house. He could sacrifice anyone to get to the wealth.

Leaders who started at the bottom will find it very difficult to concentrate on nation building without being corrupt. He built houses which aforetime, he could only dream of building, gluttonously acquire cars and other ornaments of life. Leaders that start at low level of the pyramid try to enrich their families too, in order to give them financial security.

As this trend continue, they get more entangled in the quagmire of wealth creation so the country's assets become a family asset of such leaders, their families and cabal of supporters around them. Small, small, step by step dictatorial tendencies develop and a slight challenge to such a president is met with brute force because he thinks you are challenging his acquired personal fiefdom.

They will employ all means to stay in power and if that entails war crimes they will commit without second thinking. There are many examples of such leaders in Africa from president Ali of Tunisia to President Eyademas, etc. You know as a person fulfils one level or one need, the level or need in the pyramid becomes more pressing and becomes the next aspiration. This will continue according to Maslow, until a person settles in life or his job. He becomes a managing director, army chief of staff, governor etc. 

Once at the peak, the desire to earn more wealth dwindles because money is not a problem for such a person. Now he thinks for his legacy. What will people remember him or her for. How will history record him. From history, most of our founding fathers were close to the top level of Maslow's pyramid therefore their motivation wasn't creating a wealth portfolio but to leave a glorious legacy. However leaders that emerged after them were mostly on the lower level of the pyramid and throughout their reign, wealth acquisition became their pressing pre-occupation. Hence a strong desire to cling to power and ensure leadership of their nations pass to their family member or trusted protege after they leave.

I am of the opinion that we should scrutinise our potential leaders in light of their position in Maslow's pyramid. When a leader is at the base of the pyramid, it is natural that he will first start building himself before building the nation. There might be exceptions but overall this tendency had manifested in leadership of many countries.

Some leaders like George Weah of Liberia, Buhari, Macky Sall seem to negate this theory. I don't know what readers think. As for Barrow, I think his two years neatly exemplify the insinuations of Maslow's theory. When he ascended power, he quickly started building his compound at his village, his wife's parent's compounds, helping his family members and desired more power. A man who appeared trust-worthy to everyone, a man whose demeanour silhouette humbleness, began to grow peacock feathers. Everything his government achieved was his personal ability but any mishaps was someone else's disloyalty.

Even projects which were in the pipeline by the time he ascended power, are trumpeted as his personal accomplishments. So I don't know where to place Barrow by the time he came to power. He said he was a very accomplished business man and had accumulated a lot of wealth by then.

Is he at self-actualisation or at Esteem level?

(*remember this is theory not a principle)

Lamin Darboe Leicester UK 

Editor’s note: Views expressed herein are those of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Gunjur News Online.

Copyright: 2017 - 2022 | GunjurOnline™
Copyright: 2017 - 2022 | GunjurOnline™
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