Leading with needs ++

Casey Onder, PhD
2 min readSep 12, 2022
Photo by Thomas Claeys on Unsplash

We see leaders as being invincible and knowing the way forward, or at least having the inspiring vision. So what does it mean for a leader to be “needy?”

Psychological need — Any need that is essential to mental health or that is otherwise not a biological necessity

Work examples include the knowledge and skills to succeed and the perception of contributing to something worthwhile.

While we often see leaders as superhuman, the reality is that leaders typically need more. The more they upgrade and the more they output, the higher quality of input they require. And how many times have we decreased input as we increase output? There’s only so much you can tax the system until something breaks (if it’s not you, it may be your integrity or your relationships).

In my opinion, we all have two very important things in common: We are spirit, and we are human.

The latter is critical, because to not put too fine a point on it, having needs is vulnerable.

Imagine how much easier it would be if we were completely self generating. Or if everything we needed were provided regardless of our skill level or effort. We’d be gods or beatific blobs. It would all be so effortless and we would never get hurt.

Oh to be a god/blob. If we could only…

Leaders are typically conditioned to hide or deny needs and vulnerabilities. We say we want authenticity but in reality we often want our leaders to be gods. We want the kool aid, we want to drink!

The results can be devastating. Because even if it doesn’t end up being them, somebody or something will pay the price for the fact of their humanity.

And when we’re talking about people with impact at scale, the price can be quite high.

Owning and tending to our needs is self responsible. Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is to admit to ourselves and others where we are not.

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Casey Onder, PhD

Executive Coach | Psychologist | PhD. Follow me on LinkedIn or sign up for my newsletter @ caseyonder.com.