Hierarchy of Organizational Needs – Continued (3 of 3)

Maslow's Pyramid

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid – 1943

Maslow’s Pyramid – Continued (3 of 3)

Hierarchy of Organizational Needs (HON) |  Part1Part 2 | Part 3

It may be evident by now that, beyond Level 2, organizational culture plays a vital role in an organization’s position in the Hierarchy of Organizational Needs (HON) model.  It may also be evident that your organization’s level is partially one of choice.   HP, for example, throughout its early history (prior to 1999) chose to operate at level 5.  That was the choice of the founders, Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett, and the hallmark of HP’s culture, known as theHP Way.  Much of the focus in this blog will be on leadership of companies that find themselves today at Level 2.

Maslow’s theory of motivation (seen in the  illustration above) is that as humans we will naturally attempt to satisfy the more basic needs (physiological) before directing behavior and energy toward satisfying upper-level needs.  Having satisfied the need at a given level, that need ceases to motivate us and we move up the pyramid. 


 Want to Improve Your Organizational Health?

Get Linked 2 Leadership in your inbox every day, subscribe today here!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders


As individuals, we almost never stay at a given level throughout our lives.  Most of us have resided at different levels, depending on what was happening to and around us at any given point.

If you have ever experienced not knowing where your next meal is coming from, you have experienced being at Level 1.

People in our communities today who are losing their homes are experiencing being at Level 2.   When we lose a job, it may initially feel like we are again motivated by Level 3 needs, but it can quickly wash us down to Level 2 and even Level 1 if we can’t pay the mortgage.

Much of the premise of Maslow’s theory holds true for the Hierarchy of Organizational Needs as well.

When an organization is fighting to keep the lights on and make the next payroll, its leaders are not thinking about recruiting top-notch talent or setting the stage for the next big innovation.  However, once Stability (Level 2) has been attained, and equilibrium seems attainable, the choices and options become much broader and more interesting and leaders have the opportunity to take a longer term view of their circumstances and the future.

How is your organization doing with navigating the current economic pressures? What level is your organization in? Where are you in the mix?

Hierarchy of Organizational Needs (HON) |  Part1Part 2 | Part 3

Posted on February 27, 2009 by Contributing Author Sara Zeff Geber, Ph.D

One response to “Hierarchy of Organizational Needs – Continued (3 of 3)

  1. We are well beyond Maslow at this point though his concepts were important to evolving the science of managing/leading people. And it is a science, not an art.

    One of the main contributors to the science of leadership was Douglas McGregor who published the assumptions of
    Theory X and Theory Y in his 1962 book “The Human Side of Enterprise”. Instead of looking at what leaders were doing, McGregor looked at how employees react to management’s actions. Closely investigating those reactions leads one to recognize from their consistency that there are a set of natural laws at work, thus scientific theory on which to base the skills of managing people.

    In my 30+ years of managing people, after using the traditional top-down command and control approach to managing people for my first 12 years, I shifted over the next 10 years to its opposite. I did so because I had started to learn how people react to managerial actions and in the process learned how to unleash their full potential of creativity, innovation, productivity, motivation and commitment.

    This was managerial nirvana for me and allowed me to successfully turn around four management disasters, all thanks to my people. They did all the work. I only provided the support they needed to accomplish it.

    Best regards, Ben

    P.S. For relevant articles go to


Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s