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Internal Motivation

In 1943, Abraham Maslow developed his Hierarchy of Needs Theory to explain human motivation. Figure 4-1 depicts the Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow theorized that we are compelled to respond to five levels of needs: physiological, safety, and social needs (considered lower-order needs); and esteem and self-actualization needs (considered higher-order needs) (Maslow, 2012a).

Figure 4-1 is best read from the bottom up. Maslow’s theory is that people are motivated to satisfy the lower-order needs—to obtain food, water, and shelter; to be safe and secure; and to love and be loved—before satisfying the higher-order needs. Once these lower-order needs have been satisfied, people are then compelled to satisfy their needs for esteem and self-actualization—to be the best they can be and to fulfill their purpose in life (Maslow, 2012b).

Human beings are constantly wanting, working toward the satisfaction of a need. The basic needs are arranged in order of power and influence over the human consciousness. When a need is somewhat satisfied, the next most powerful need emerges and dominates thinking and behavior. Lesser needs may be set aside, forgotten, or denied. Once a person feels the need to self-actualize, he or she may become anxious, on edge, tense, and overall restless (Maslow, 2012b). It is easy to tell when a person feels hungry, unsafe, unloved, or lacking self-esteem, but it is difficult to determine what will satisfy a person’s need to self- actualize.

Self-leadership requires you to find internal motivation to achieve your leadership goals. External motivators, such as paying your mortgage or rent, passing an exam, or completing a project at work, are good positive motivators. But better motivators are those that help you achieve more, that help you to change for the better. Internal motivation does not require an outside stimulus; instead you have a sense of purpose, a determination to change yourself, if necessary, in order to self-actualize, to become all that you can become (Helmstetter, 1982).

Figure 4-1 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Stephen Covey’s Habit 2, “Begin with the End in Mind,” is based on the principle that all things are created twice, first in the mind, and then, physically, in life (Covey, 1989). No

one else knows your needs, goals, and desires like you do, so they cannot—should not— create in their mind what manifests in your life. No one else is responsible for or capable of setting a path for your future.

I have interviewed several people who did not know what they wanted to do. They were working in an area outside of their degree; they had changed jobs several times. They were actually very capable workers, but they didn’t know if they were fulfilled because they did not set out to achieve a particular goal. They struggled to find a position that satisfied their self-esteem needs because they could not visualize or articulate what they were looking for. You don’t have to be that way. You can commit yourself to becoming an IT leader. You can devote yourself to discovering where you are on Maslow’s hierarchy and set out on a journey to self-actualize. Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” (Aristotle, 2012).

An IT geek that has made the commitment to become an IT leader faces such a challenge. You need to find not only external motivation, such as a promotion, but also internal motivation, a sense of purpose that is unique to you, the geek. “Real leaders are guided more by internal than external regulation” (Tice, 2005). Many psychologists believe that you cannot motivate anyone to become something they do not internally agree to become (Helmstetter, 1982). IT geek leaders need to have an emotional connection; a requirement to satisfy a physiological need, a safety need, a self-esteem need, or a need to self-actualize; a need to develop a sense of pride and accomplishment; a belief in themselves; and a fulfillment that comes from living in accordance with their values, beliefs, and expectations.

“You have beliefs and expectations that affect every aspect of your life,” Tice writes, “what kind of person you are morally, socially, spiritually, intellectually. So, in a sense, you don’t have just one self-image, you have thousands. For example, you have a belief about what kind of leader you are, and within that belief, you may have self-images. You may think, ‘I’m a leader on my softball team and as a teacher at my school, but I’m not a leader in my community or church’” (Tice, 2005).

Your belief about your IT geek leadership ability follows the same principle. You may believe you are a leader, that you have a leadership mindset in your family or at school, but not on an IT project.

But you can change this self-image and become an IT geek leader. Taking responsibility for your team means first taking responsibility for your own self-leadership by motivating yourself to adapt, to don the leadership mindset required to succeed in your organization.

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