The Exercise of Power and Authority: Choice Theory

Great leadership has nothing to do with fixed rules. It is based upon a few truths or principles. For example, in a typical television or video display,  there are only 3 colors, red, blue, green that are added together to produce a myriad of colors. In the same way, when the few leadership principles are applied by a competent leader, they are effective in all kinds of situations and circumstances.

In the context of today’s social system, anyone who has some aspect of another person’s life under their control should be bound by clear rules of engagement.  The courts consistently view employees as the weaker partner in the employee-employer relationship.

Therefore, leaders need to be skilled at giving their employees what they need to get what they want. Consider that statement to be a key principle of leadership.

It’s important to align your management practice with what truly motivates people. Good managers recognize that it is their responsibility to create the conditions, using the tools and resources provided by their organization, that allow their charges to meet or exceed the standards of the company.

A simple way of thinking about that responsibility is: give them what they need so you can get a lot more of what you want.

Choice theory tells us that all human beings regardless of ethnicity or gender have five basic needs. The needs are internal motivators or drives within a person. According to the theory, all behavior serves a purpose.

The behavior may not be effective, but its purpose is to meet one or more of the innate needs. Of the five needs, four are psychological and one is physiological as follows:

  1. survival – basic physical needs and the need for order and security
  2. love and belonging  to a group or cause
  3. power to cooperate with others; to develop skills; having it over someone or something
  4. freedom from discomfort and to make choices
  5. fun – enjoyment, laughter or pleasure

All employees have their own needs profile. You can construct it with an educated guess based on your observation, or by talking with them informally about their own needs.

Most motivational schemes  tend to focus on money, the survival need, which according to Dan Pink works well for simple task. Task that have a simple set of rules, are routine, need a narrowed focus, and have a clear destination or single solution.

Before exploring the use of a needs profile, I’d like you to take the time and construct  your own needs profile (S, LB, P, FR, F).