McClelland’s Theory – What it is, definition and concept

McClelland’s theory is a motivation-oriented model mainly within the business field and the field of organizations. Its creator, David McClelland, emphasizes three main aspects: the affiliation motivation, the achievement motivation and the power motivation.

McClelland’s theory, also known as the three needs theory, focuses its main base on the fact of supplying these needs (affiliation, achievement and power), to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the individual. In this way, it would seek to create a source of motivation so that the person can achieve the proposed objectives.

Motivation is something that moves human beings to achieve goals and objectives that they want. It can occur in many areas, for example, work, personal, academic, among others.

Within the psychology of motivation, a relevant fact must be highlighted: Maslow’s pyramid, carried out by Abraham Maslow.

This theory introduced by Maslow represents a great advance in the field of motivational psychology. According to Maslow, there were five categories of needs that he ordered taking into account the importance for the human being to live. These are physiological, security, belonging, recognition and self-realization needs that were at the top of the pyramid.

Subsequently, other theories related to motivation appeared, including the one that concerns us in this article.

David McClelland’s theory deals with three types of needs. These are shared by any type of person, without distinction.

What are the main features of McClelland’s theory?

To form his theory, McClelland distinguishes three types of needs:

  • Affiliation Need: People need to be part of a social group. They like to collaborate and know the opinions of the rest. For some subjects meeting this need is more important than for others. The need for affiliation is something that has been demonstrated throughout history due to the importance it has for people. According to McClelland, individuals who value this need more develop a more prominent role as employees than as bosses and leaders of the organization, since they are usually not very adept at giving orders or setting goals. They feel more comfortable collaborating and not competing.
  • Need for achievement: Individuals who excel in this type of need tend to be motivated by challenges. They love challenges and usually carry out individual work, although they are interested in knowing different opinions about their own development.
  • Need for power: It occurs at a high level in those people who enjoy competing with the rest. They seek to be socially recognized and influence society, but always looking for their interests. McClelland differentiates personal power and socialized power. The first is based on obtaining the maximum benefits for oneself and the second tends to be more aware of others.
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These types of needs are clearly perceptible in the field of organizations, since they will influence when individuals develop one type of work or another.

In addition, they are also especially important when it comes to knowing how relationships develop within the company between leaders and employees.

Example of McClelland’s theory

This theory is very interesting when it comes to putting it into practice within the company. It can be implemented to carry out an optimal management of the corporate team.

You can get to know each member based on these needs and thus find out more about their expectations, strengths and desires. In this way, it will be possible to find out what supposes a greater motivation for each person and responsibilities and tasks can be delegated based on this research based on said theory.

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