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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Student Leadership

visual of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs transposed with levels of student leadership development
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Student Leadership

It's always comforting to find different ways of reflecting on projects that don't quite work out. Cue: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs!

Just the other day, I was reading an excerpt* about this "model of growth viewed through a progressive fulfilling of a hierarchy of needs" and realized how essential it is for student leadership projects to have a solid foundation.

Sometimes an enthusiastic teacher can take on a project with some keen students and, without the administration's full understanding and support, there can be struggles. And this model helped me to see the necessary progression of needs that contribute to success in a student leadership (or, in fact, a youth engagement) project.

i.e. without a regularly booked meeting room, the student leader meetings can shift from week to week - causing lost time as students who DO find the space set-out to round up those who went to last week's location, or worse, trying to hold a meeting in the school foyer with the loud hallways disrupting the conversation, and other students walking up to ask "what are you all doing here?"

Using the original hierarchy as a baseline, here's a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Student Leadership - or, what I came up with (see image above). I've written it below in the reverse order. In the spirit of collaboration, suggestions, comments and improvements are welcomed: please chime in!!


Shelter: Basic requirements for a school group to exist: regular meeting space and time in the calendar, modest budget for identifiers & parental permission form

Credibility: Student leaders welcomed by principal; having their classroom teacher’s support to attend meetings and work on leadership tasks

Cohesion: Mutual support, trust and friendship within the group; each can feel connected to overall goals and plans

Contribution: Each student leads at least one activity and supports each other on all events 

Achievement: Creativity to build leadership skills while discovering new strengths


For, reference, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs from from simplypsychology.org/maslow.html 


* Sharon Salzberg's new book Real Life


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