Discerning Needs vs. Wants: The Leader’s Guide to Sustainable Success

May 8, 2024

The Engaged Leader: Beyond Wants, Lies True Potential

In today’s fast-paced world, leaders are bombarded with demands and distractions. But true leadership goes beyond simply getting things done. Effective leaders cultivate self-awareness and emotional intelligence, enabling them to discern between needs and wants. This discernment, as described in the ancient Indian philosophy of Vedanta, is key to achieving sustainable success for both themselves and their teams.

The Illusion of Perception: A Leader’s Curveball

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali highlight the concept of Maya, the illusion created by our limited perception. We often mistake wants for needs, leading to a cycle of chasing desires that ultimately bring suffering. A leader trapped in this cycle might prioritize flashy projects over fulfilling the core needs of their team.

Sharpened Focus: Seeing Needs Clearly

Using the power of discrimination or the ability to differentiate between needs and wants, is a critical leadership skill. Leaders who cultivate this awareness can make better decisions, prioritize effectively, and foster a more productive and fulfilling work environment.

From “Needs” to ” Weeds”: Uprooting Unnecessary Desires

Needs are fundamental for our well-being, while wants are often fleeting desires fueled by external stimuli. Fulfilling needs creates a sense of growth and allows us to serve others better. On the other hand, chasing wants can lead to greed, competition, and ultimately, a sense of emptiness.

The Art of Self-Inquiry: Cultivating the Mindful Leader Within

Self-inquiry is a powerful tool for cultivating discriminative awareness. By asking ourselves “Do I truly need this?” we can begin to identify and uproot unnecessary desires. This practice paves the way for mindfulness and allows us to connect with our true selves.

The Path to Sustainable Success: The 8 Limbs

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outline the eight-limbed path, a framework for achieving higher consciousness and well-being. By integrating these practices into leadership, we can cultivate discernment, compassion, and a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. This, in turn, leads to a more sustainable and meaningful leadership style.

The Takeaway: A Leader’s Call to Action

By honing discriminative awareness, leaders can become more effective, fostering a thriving work environment built on fulfilling needs and fostering genuine growth. Self-reflection, meditation, and the practices outlined in the eight-limbed path are valuable tools for any leader seeking to cultivate this essential skill.

Are you ready to embark on your journey to becoming a more discerning leader? Coacharya offers an array of leadership development programs designed to cultivate self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and effective decision-making. Become a better leader for yourself and your team – check out our programs and contact us today!

(Originally published on Coaching the Spirit – a LinkedIn Newsletter by Ram S. Ramanathan: Do You Think Critically?)

Cover Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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