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David McClelland

David McClelland

David McClelland was a well-known American psychological theorist who was the founder of Need Theory. Born on May 20th, 1917 in Mt. Vernon, New York, USA. He acquired his PhD in psychology from Yale University in 1941. Before that, he had obtained his bachelor of arts from Wesleyan University in 1938 and following year he had done his MA from University of Missouri. He had also served as a teacher at Connecticut College and Wesleyan University before becoming a faculty member at the prestigious Harvard University in 1956. He served Harvard University for thirty years as a chairman of the department of social relations.

David McClelland most famous theory of needs earned him many prestigious accolades and awards. The theory of needs is found in different degrees in almost all the workers and managers. He categorized the need theory into three sub-categories which are known as the need for achievement (n-ach), the need for authority and power (n-pow) and the need for affiliation (n-affil).The need for achievement defines the type of personality who has an innate desire to achieve, which seeks achievement through the attainment of realistic and possible but challenging goals, the second type of person who has innate need for power and authority. He has the desire to be influential and effective through power and authority. He wants to gain a personal reputation and social status by fulfilling his need for exercising power. The third need is the need for affiliation which says that a person with this need is motivated by maintaining friendly relations and effective interactions with the people. People with this need also possess great team playing capabilities. They have a need to be liked and becoming popular. McClelland also suggested that most of the people have multiple characteristics, the motivational needs or mix determines a person’s behavior and affects to a great deal his working style and behavior. He proposed that a manager who has a strong need for affiliation will eventually fall out in achieving his objective as he will concentrate more on maintaining friendly and cordial relations with his employees whereas a manger who has greater need for power and authority maintains strong work ethics and commitment to his work. They are attracted to attaining leadership roles in the organization but they cannot maintain flexibility and friendliness in dealing with his employees and colleagues. David McClelland also suggested that people having great motivation for achievement can become the best leaders but their setback is that they expect their staff to be driven towards achievement like them which of course, is not possible. McClelland firmly believed that people who have need for achievement make things happen.

He has the honor of being awarded for distinguished scientific contributions by the American Psychological Association. He has penned down several books on his works, observations and researches. Most of his books are related to achievement motivation. The Achievement Motive, and, The Achieving Society are two of the many other books and publications by him. David McClelland died on March 27, 1998.

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