How Understanding Others Needs Can Make You a Better Leader

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Understanding Others Needs Can Make You a Better Leader

Understanding Others Needs Can Make You a Better Leader

The question I’m often asked by serving leaders is how do my primary needs impact how I see and interact with others?  As a serving leader, we tend to have a wider circle of friends and stakeholders in our lives because we are open to serving others through our life purpose. I find many serving leaders burn out because they are more sensitive to others feelings and ideas. Now that you’ve discovered what your top two needs are, go out and talk with other people to see what they choose to put at the top of their lists. Two people might have the same needs, but they manifest them differently based on their life experiences and their own unique needs and gifts.

I thought I’d share three ideas that can help you get your needs met while helping others meet their needs as well.  Having asked these questions hundreds, if not thousands, of times in my life, I think understanding what a person’s primary needs are defines how they feel about their life at any given time. These needs can change throughout a person life and circumstances. Now that we set the ground rules and a basic understanding, it is critical to know these three ideas when dealing with others and meeting your own needs.

The first idea is there is no right and wrong answer to what you need. In the complex world we live in, many people feel there is a right and wrong answer to what you want and, ultimately, need. People tend to believe their own needs are the right ones. I see it more of a preference than a law, and if you dig deeper with a person you can almost always discover where these needs began.  That assumes a person wants or needs to know why they are the way they are. Many people I’ve managed are not really concerned with the root cause of why they feel the way they do, they just want to feel better. One of my early mentors used to tell me that some people are just not that deep and you should accept it.  Good advice when discussing this is to know yourself and then explore until the person wants to go no farther.

The second idea is people are doing what they believe is best for themselves. This means that we typically have a good understanding how we get our needs met. We surround ourselves with people with similar or complementary needs. One partner places a high value on security and the other might be a career daredevil. Sometimes you find an individual that values significance and their partner makes them the center and most important person in their lives. Women frequently place a high value of supporting the their families and making their children the most important people in their lives, but abandon their own individual needs to support the agendas of others.

In the case of the baby boomer generation, many women chose to stay home with their family and not take care of their own needs for growth, only to become huge risk takers in the second half of their lives.  The rule I share is, do not expect people to immediately understand the consequences of their choices. The farther apart the needs seem to be the more important you give the other person an opportunity to understand the implications of their choices.  Avoid saying you chose this, you own it. Most people do not realize their choices have implications to their current and future lives.

Finally, make it a habit to do some self-reflection on how the circumstances of your life changes your ranking of needs. If you’re unemployed for an extended period of time, you may be willing to compromise on having your professional needs met in your next role. The problem is that over time, going without your needs being met makes you less tolerant in many other aspects of your life.  Since none of the needs are individual, but more of a combination of several needs together you must understand that your compromises now could have huge implications to how you lead your life. If you choose to make choices that don’t reflect your needs, you find that over time you are unfilled in your life. Abraham Maslow once said, “If you don’t do everything you can with your life, you will be unhappy in your life.” Many times needs provide people with a subtle guidance system to help them see if they’re moving in the right direction in their lives. If you’re not having your primary needs met somewhere, you may struggle in your life. Help your team to be the leaders of their lives.

Why have I chosen to share this with you? I use a needs assessment as one of the ways to help leaders discover why they might be out of balance.  You should consider using this process as a quick checkup when people seem to be struggling with their lives. Over the past several years, I have found many of the people I talk with challenged by the prolonged economic uncertainty, or they don’t feel like they are doing all they can at their job and they have an energy decline.  You might consider asking them what they value most and if they are getting their needs met. As a leader once you understand their needs gap, you can help them get their needs met. I think you may be surprised how quickly they respond and how quickly you can help them move ahead.

If your looking for a great movie on how leaders roles are changing, you might enjoy Captain America Winter Soldier this weekend. I wrote a blog on our sister publication Market Leadership Journal called What Can Entrepreneurs Learn from Captain America? that you might enjoy.

See you next week.

About the Author

Tripp Braden partners with entrepreneurs and senior executives on their high engagement C-Suite communication and content marketing strategies.

He believes client education is the best way of building trust and long term sustainable growth.

His consulting practice focuses on second stage entrepreneurs, technology organizations, and senior level business executives. Tripp partners with clients to develop high impact C-Suite communication and account based marketing strategies.

If you’re interested in learning more, contact Tripp at or send him an invite on LinkedIn. You can find Tripp’s business growth blog at Market Leadership Journal.

Tripp Braden – who has written posts on Empowering Serving Leaders.

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