Byron's Babbles

Existential Needs

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 22, 2015


How do we make ourselves useful to others? How do we make ourselves useful to ourselves? These were both questions that Peter Drucker believed were important us to think about. He also believed organizations needed to think about this for both the people working for the organization and those it serves. We share immensely in the products of prosperity, including better health care and longer life experiences (Maciariello, 2014). These lead us to a whole new range of conditions and choices, especially the opportunity to move from success to significance. IMG_0640

Drucker (2014) argued that the products of prosperity do not create fulfillment, and this becomes very apparent as we achieve prosperity. Drucker recognized that the term “existential” was not only difficult to define, but more difficult to comprehend. The term existential, as used by Drucker, meant the universal need for inspiration, effectiveness, and hope. This definition, I believe, is consistent with that of Kaufmann (1968), who believed “Existentialism”, therefore, may be defined as the philosophical theory which holds that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to grasp human existence. Please let me be clear, this is not a post about existentialism, but I like Kaufmann’s view of authenticity. We talk about authenticity in leadership all the time. If we go back to Drucker’s view of the need for inspiration, effectiveness, and hope does that not sum up how to be authentic? We need to recognize our own existential needs for inspiration, effectiveness, and hope. Additionally, as we strive for significance, we must strive to provide the existential needs for those we serve and the greater community.

“Here I am in the twilight years of my life still wondering what it’s all about… I can tell you this: Fame and Fortune is for the birds.” ~ Lee Iacooca

While the needs are important to fulfill throughout our lives, they are especially important to fulfill as we try to make the transition from success to significance. Drucker (2014) believed that an important existential need of personhood is to integrate the two dimensions of existence – life in the present and life in the spirit. Organizations need to offer opportunities for meaningful service in the community while also providing a greater sense of purpose for the volunteer. We, as authentic leaders, have the responsibility to bring inspiration, effectiveness, and hope to those we serve and to society. We also must help those we serve do the same thing. Our world’s survival and happiness depend on it!


Kaufmann, W., 1968. Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, Cleveland: Meridian Books.

Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.


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