Kets de Vries makes two key arguments. One, organizations, like people, have psychological styles. Two, people are not so straightforward. "There are few universals in life, but transference is one," he writes. "What transference says is that no relationship we have is a new relationship; all relationships are colored by previous relationships." And this doesn't just mean previous work relationships. Psychologists like Kets de Vries believe that the majority of one's personality is shaped by the age of three.
Kets de Vries's position is that everyone has a core drama that leads to their personality style. What makes each of us the person we are is the dominance of some inner wish. The wish to be loved, or to be understood, or noticed. The wish to be free from conflict, or to help, or to be able to hurt others. The wish to achieve or the wish to fail. When we go to work, we take this fundamental wish into a context of relationships. We project it on others, and rightly or wrongly anticipate how others will react to us, and then we react to their reactions. This basic wish, embedded in context, is what psychiatrists call the core conflictual relationship theme, and everybody's CCRT is unique.
We will apply these principles to organizations, and read case studies in addition to the text. The goal is a more effective analysis of the dynamics occurring in organizations, and an assessment of the human factors, physical environment, financial and physical resources, and cultural issues that contribute to effective (or ineffective) leadership.
Reading from Text
Kets De Vries, Manfred. The Leadership Mystique: A User's Manual for the Human Enterprise. Prentice Hall, 2001. ISBN 0273656201.
Overview of Text
Organizations are like automobiles. They don't run themselves, except downhill.
Leadership now requires very different behavior from the leadership tradition we are used to. It requires leaders who speak to the collective imagination of their people, co-opting them to join in the business journey; leaders who are able to motivate people to full commitment and have them make that extra effort. It's all about human behavior. It's about understanding the way people and organizations behave, about creating relationships, about building commitment, and about adapting your behavior to lead in a creative and motivating way.
So, ask yourself what you're doing about the leadership factor. How do you execute your own leadership style? Whether you work on the shop floor or have a corner office on the top floor of a shimmering skyscraper, what have you done today to be more effective as a leader?
There are no quick answers to leadership questions, and there are no easy solutions. In fact, the more we learn the more it seems there is to learn. In The Leadership Mystique, management and psychology guru Manfred Kets de Vries unpicks the many layers of complexity that underlie effective leadership, and gets to the heart of the day-to-day behavior of leading people in the human enterprise.
"Your business can have all the advantages in the world; strong financial resources, enviable market position, and state-of-the-art technology, but if leadership fails, all of these advantages melt away." Manfred Kets de Vries
Additional Guiding Questions
What are some of the most common barriers to performance in an organization? What has your experience shown you? Do your thoughts agree with Kets de Vries' ideas?
What is projection? How do individuals respond to individuals in habitual, almost "programmed" ways, depending on their own family history?
How might a person who had a primary caregiver (father or mother) who was emotionally absent, or seemingly incapable of identifying or responding to the child's needs respond to a new boss?
How can one create a sense of "mission" within an organization? Have you ever had to do that? How do you motivate people and get everyone on the same page?
How do you go about uncovering what the "real" problem is in an organization?
In an organization, how can you tell when certain behaviors are "rewarded"? Are negative behaviors sometimes inadvertently rewarded? When and how?