The Elevens Skills of Leadership

Submitted by Bob Docteur

Skill # 3 Understanding the Characteristics and Needs of the Group and Its Members

For our purposes, a characteristic is "a trait, quality, or property distinguishing an individual, group, or type." A need is "a want, a requirement, feeling the lack of something that would be useful." The characteristics and needs of youth can vary widely from one person to the next. They often depend on the young person's background in the home, school, church, and other organizations as well as the particular situation at the moment.

Each member of a group has some important needs. At the basic level is the need for food, water, shelter, and warmth. The next level involves the need for safety and security. Next is the need for friends, association with others, interpersonal relationships, order, and a feeling of belonging. At the fourth level, needs include recognition, self-respect, independence, and esteem. The final level involves the need for self-fulfillment, confidence, achievement, and growth to the individual's full potential.

Recognizing these needs and how well they are met will often explain the characteristics of the members of the group. If one level of needs has been some what met, then other needs emerge as dominant. For instance, a boy from an unstable family in a poverty stricken urban neighborhood beset with street crime may respond quite differently than one from a stable and loving middle income family residing in a safe suburb. A relationship between observed characteristics and the true needs of an individual may be misleading, however. The seemingly self-assured individual might in fact be playing a role in an attempt to feel secure. On the other hand, the quiet and reserved person might be so self-confident that he or she sees no need to attract attention.

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