The Interesting Role of Leadership

By Anders Ling, Founder and Managing Director Compass Consulting LLC


There have been many books, studies, and articles about leadership qualities, also referred to as leadership attributes. Leaders have to be honest, have integrity, be inspirational, good communicators, they have to be confidence and show empathy to mention a few.  But what is the purpose of leadership?

My view is that the purpose of the leader is to cater for the needs of others.

Let me try to explain what I mean and do so I may have to give you a bit of a background. More than 50 years ago a psychologist, Abraham Maslow, created a theory known a Hierarchy of Needs. The theory explains what drives human behaviors, what motivates us. Although the theory is more than half century old it still holds true.


In brief the models contain 5 layers, each which must be satisfied before moving upwards to the next layer. The most fundamental one, Physiological needs, food, shelter, water, the things we simply need to survive.


You must have seen many TV shows where people are put on an island to survive.
Their first priority is always to satisfy the most fundamental needs.

Very soon when a group of people is put in a survival situation,
they do an inventory, whether anyone have any skills that may be useful for their situation.

A leader will emerge, he or she may not have the attributes we normally associate with leaders and leadership, but he/she has skills and knowledge they rely on to survive. To ensure that the physiological needs can be met.  

Once they have built some shelter, found some fruit and maybe caught some fish, the basic needs are satisfied and they again turn to someone who can keep them safe and secure, and thereafter they are looking at bonding with others, seeking friendship, this to satisfy the Belongingness and Love needs. They create pacts and alliances.


Making them more exciting, in those TV show there are also challenges and competition
and the winner get immunity from being voted off the island/

The challenge or competition is usually against a different tribe.
Nothing bonds a group together than a common enemy. 

This is something the leader at this stage to best –they unite the team/tribe.
The leader may not be the one performing the challenge but he/she is the one that
will be most vocal and cheering  or the team mate.


Now things are getting interesting!


There is a price in those TV show, Like a “Million Dollar to the Winner”.
It is commonly known that “Fear and Greed” is driving people’s behavior.

Since the basic and psychological needs are satisfied, and the contenders know that they are not going to spend the rest of their lives on the island, they do not fear losing friends and sacrifice safety and basic needs.

Greed takes over,
there is No longer a need for leader to cater for their needs –
it is now up to themselves.
No one is going to voluntarily hand over the million dollars.


Although the above are scenes from a TV show, it is actually the same in a workplace, with one exception, people will strive to self-actualization (unless they have already handed in their resignation).


And like the TV show people need someone who can push them, inspire them, leverage their strengths, someone who believes in them even when they doubt themselves, someone who can cater for their needs.

They, and you, need a leader who can unlock your, the team, the department, the whole organizations full potential. And to do so all the various leadership attributes/qualities are required.


Fortunately, most people that have a job that satifisy their basic needs satisfied,
they have a place they call home,the earn a salary for which they can pay rent and buy groceries.

What they look for as a leader, may not be the survival expert or hunter
to keep them warm and fed,but rather someone who can cater for the psychological needs.


Any business is constantly changing – the changes may be small or significant, but any change is a threat to their current situation. Any change triggers several questions and doubts in people’s mind. They do not know whether they will fit in with change, they don’t know whether their skills and competences are adequate, are they going to lose their status within the organization. This is why most people are hesitant or reluctant to changes. It is the unknown.  Who is going to keep them safe?

It is the leader who will guide them through the unknown to safety. The comforting words of the leader, that I know this may be scary but everything is going to be alright, I have experience this before, no one will lose their job, there may be  certain aspects that are not fully known yet, but this is a great opportunity and we will once this is done look back to say “why didn’t we do this earlier”. 


The leader in the above example demonstrates,empathy,credibility,
confidence,optimism, courage, honesty,communicator, inspiration a
influence.The right attributes to get it done. He/she cater to the
needs of the people he/she leads, and that is the purpose of leadership.



About Author:

Mr. Anders Ling is an experienced and qualified Risk Management, Ethics & Compliance and Cyber Security professional that after 23 years with one of the Big 4 and an extensive international career spanning across Sweden, Netherlands, Canada and the UAE, decided to follow his passion and started Compass Consulting LLC in Dubai.

As founder and Managing Director he and his team assist clients creating value beyond profit. Enriching the corporate culture by focusing on purpose and values. Developing the leadership and its abilities to lead and inspire, to build a thriving organization achieving sustainable growth.

He is recognized for leading teams in challenging and multicultural environments and his ability to translate and convey behavioral and technology risks into business risks. As such he has successfully created strategies and programmes to effectively mitigate risk and exposure across large and culturally diverse organizations.

Anders also engages with professional bodies/associations and contributes to continual education and awareness as public speaker, author, and coach.