The Hierarchy of Needs: Maslow’s Theory of Motivation

The basis of Maslow’s theory of motivation is that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower needs need to be satisfied before higher needs can be addressed.

The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called “deficiency needs” or “d-needs“: Esteem, Friendship and Love, Security, and Physical Needs.

With the exception of the most fundamental (physiological) needs, if these “deficiency needs” are not met, the body gives no physical indication but the individual feels anxious and tense.

While a person is motivated to fulfill these basal desires, they continue to move toward growth, and eventually self-actualization. Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization.

Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs: Maslow suggested that only 2% of the people in the world really achieve self actualization.

The orginal hierarchy of needs five-stage model includes:

1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

3. Belongingness and Love needs – work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.

4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
Hierarchy of Needs

(Click on image to enlarge)


From Maslow’s theory of motivation, modern leaders and executive managers find means of employee motivation for the purposes of employee and workforce management.

Nearly every masters degree program, whether it be marketing, psychology, or project management includes a discussion about how Maslow’s needs hierarchy impacts their given profession:

  • Masters in Psychology need to understand this fundamental building block to modern theories of motivation.
  • Masters in Marketing need to understand the motivation of their target demographic to suitably identify a campaign that approaches their current level of need.
  • Masters in Project Management need to approach their team members and stakeholders with the appropriate motivation to effectively deliver their projects


A more recent eight-stage model has been developed during the 1990s, with the addition of other 3 needs:

Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.

Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.

Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self actualization.


Here’s a video about the expanded hierarchy of needs:


Main References:

– Abraham Maslow – Father of Modern Management

– Simply Psychology

Gianni Giuseppe


2 thoughts on “The Hierarchy of Needs: Maslow’s Theory of Motivation”

  1. Great post however I was wanting to know if you could write
    a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Appreciate it!

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