The Needs of the Many

In Star Trek, a famous TV series, actor Leonard Simon Nimoy played a character called Mr. Spock, an alien from a planet called Vulcan, whose inhabitants guided their behavior by logic, burying their feelings deeply into their powerful minds. In the series, this was the first extraterrestrial people to make contact with our beautiful but also troubled blue balloon. This character had several quotes that marked the show, for example, his greeting, where he wanted a “long and prosperous life”; besides his philosophy for teamwork, saying that “logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”. This quote was always contradicted by his superior, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, actor William Alan Shatner’s character and protagonist of the original series. Was this principle contested because the captain was a human and descended from earthlings today who practice and believe that the will and the needs of a few should shut the needs and dreams of the many?

American Psychologist David McClelland, developed in 1961 a theory that tries to explain the motivation of individuals in their work from the satisfaction of their needs. These requirements correspond to the higher levels of Maslow’s pyramid and the motivational factors of Herzberg. According to him, three types of need deserve attention: ACHIEVEMENT, POWER and ASSOCIATION needs. These requirements are developed by the individual from their life experience and their interactions with others and with the environment. The need for achievement is the person’s desire to achieve goals that challenge him, to try always to do things better and more efficiently, to pursue excellence and success and to obtain recognition for their achievements. McClelland (1961) defines the need of association as the desire that the individual has to establish, maintain or restore positive emotional relationships with others. This need is closely linked to desire to feel wanted or accepted. Thus, individuals with high need of association prefer to work where there is interaction with others and value teamwork, where there is cooperation, support, fellowship, concord and cohesion among team members. Finally, the need for power is the individual’s desire to have control of the means of influencing others. According to the author, people who have a high need for power try to highlight or make an impact in some way on others, rather than working with something where they can perform well.

Considering that individuals have different levels of attraction for each one of the needs described by McClelland, it’s up to leaders of organizations and working groups for aligning the individual interests of each employee to the working group and the organization. / A good tool’s suggestion for this alignment to be achieved are the Five Basic Rules of Exemplary Leadership, proposed by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge (1997):

  1. Challenge the establishment, seeking new opportunities, experimenting and risking;

    2. Inspire a shared vision of the group involving people;

    3. Allow others to act, encouraging collaboration;

    4. Guide paths by example; and

    5. Encourage the heart of every staff member, recognizing the contributions of each individual and celebrating the achievements.

So, an alignment between the needs of the individual (the one), the workgroup (the few) and the organization (the many) can be achieved, thus justifying the counterpoint that put a human from the future, Captain Kirk, to the famous thought of Mr. Spock: The needs of many cannot overcome the needs of the few; they should be mounted on the needs of the groups, which in their turn are the result of integrating their each individual participant’s needs.


KOUZES, James M. e POSNER, Barry Z. O Desafio da Liderança. Trad. Ricardo Inojosa. 9a. edição. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Campus, 1997.

McCLELLAND, David C. The Achieving Society. Eastford, MA, USA: Martino Fine Books, 2010.

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