Another important name in the field of cognitive behavioral science is David McClelland. In the 1960s and 70s, this Harvard professor extensively studied achievement motivation and concluded that successful individuals have a significantly stronger drive or motivation to succeed than do average or below average individuals. Here is some background information, presented for your interest, on Dr. David McClelland.
David McClelland (1961, 1971)
McClelland defines a high need for achievement (denoted as n'Ach) as a self-motivation to high levels of accomplishment. High achievers are "turned on" by the accomplishment of a task, the attainment of a skill, the meeting of a challenge, or the invention of something new. Such goals matter more to them than secondary, external results such as money, power, or prestige. For this reason, it is the challenge and achievement of doing the work that appeals to them, not the actual outcome. They want to affect the outcome. They are more attracted to a problem to be solved or something to be improved than they are to a gamble with high stakes.
McClelland's (1961, 1965) research showed that high achievers set challenging but realistic goals for themselves. They assume personal responsibility for solving problems, calculate risks, set moderate objectives, and want to receive frequent feedback on results. They are decisive. Although they are self-directed and self-motivated, they like to receive feedback on how well they are doing, which serves as encouragement to them to think of ways to do their jobs even better. Because they are goal oriented, they prioritize their tasks in order to best meet their objectives; they do not allow minor tasks to interfere with the achievement of their goals. Business people who are in jobs that entail a great deal of responsibility are likely to be high achievers.
In contrast, people with low needs for achievement tend to vacillate; they seek direction, motivation, and reinforcement from others. They are task oriented, and they may well attempt to do too many things at one time.
People who are high in n'Ach also like to solve new problems; they tend not to be traditionalists. It is not surprising that entrepreneurs tend to have high achievement motivation and to be concerned with accomplishment.
In their book, The Achievement Motive, McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, and Lowell (1976) present the results of a study undertaken to discover why people differ in their levels of motivation to achieve. They generalize the findings to postulate that achievement motivation is a necessary and universal human factor. As they see it, all persons "...are faced with learning problems from birth - with learning how to walk and talk, for instance - and the element of learning to solve these problems well or poorly enters into the experience of all people to a greater or lesser degree." (p332)
Although achievement motivation generally seems to be inherent or developed at an early age, McClelland (1965), in his research discovered that people can learn to become more achievement oriented. Once the motivation is acquired or strengthened, the person can maintain it indefinitely.
Characteristics of High Achievers
- Self-Motivated, Self-Directed
- Goal Oriented
- Set Challenging but Realistic Goals
- Goal is accomplishment or challenge itself
- Assume personal responsibility for problem solving
- Calculate risks
- Set moderate objectives
- Sequence tasks in relation to goals
- Prioritize tasks to attain goals
- Want frequent feedback on results
- Evaluate by monitoring results and establishing check points
- Independent at earlier age
Based on McClelland’s work, Udai Parrek (1986) identified what he believed to be the six primary needs or motivators relevant to understanding the behavior of people in organizations and developed the MAO-B instrument to measure them. The six motives are:.
Achievement: Characterized by concern for excellence, competition with the standards of excellence set by others or by oneself, the setting of challenging goals for oneself, awareness of the hurdles in the way of achieving those goals, and persistence in trying alternative paths to one's goals.
Affiliation: Characterized by a concern for establishing and maintaining close personal relationships; a value on friendship; and a tendency to express one's emotions
Influence: Characterized by concern with making an impact on others, a desire to make people do what one thinks is right, and an urge to change matters and (develop) people.
Control: Characterized by a concern for orderliness, a desire to be and stay informed, and an urge to monitor and take corrective action when needed.
Extension: Characterized by concern for others, interest in superordinate goals, and an urge to be relevant and useful to larger groups, including society.
Dependence: Characterized by a desire for the help of others in one's own self-development, checking with significant others (those who are more knowledgeable or have higher status, experts, close associates, etc.), submitting ideas or proposals for approval, and having an urge to maintain an "approval" relationship.
Each of the six motives can have two dimensions: approach and avoidance. For example, with the achievement motive, the two dimensions are hope of success (approach) and fear of failure (avoidance). The latter is dysfunctional. A person's behavior thus can be analyzed not only in terms of the six primary motives but also from the perspective of (positive) approach or (negative) avoidance, reflected by hope or fear. Table A, which follows, summarizes the approach and avoidance dimensions of each of the six motives
Table A: Approach and Avoidance Dimensions of Typical Motives
|Motives||Approach (hope of)||Avoidance (fear of)|
For further reference please see:
McClelland, D.C. (1975). Power: The Inner Experience. New York: Irvington.
McClelland, D.C., Atkinson, J.W., & Lowell, E.L. (1953). The Achievement Motive. New York: Irvington.
McGregor, D. (1966), Leadership and Motivation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Murray, H.A. (1938). Explorations in Personality. New York: Oxford University Press.