wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Manfred Kets de Vries (1942- )Manfred Kets de Vries


Dutch professor at the INSEAD Business School near Paris and an expert in the psychology of leadership (pictured right).



Key books

The Neurotic Organization (1984), written with Danny Miller


There are five neurotic types of organization, reflected in the personalities of their leaders:


1. Dramatic

Flamboyant, entrepreneurial and intuitive (e.g. Richard Branson’s Virgin).


2. Paranoid (or suspicious)

Distrust of others leading to close supervision and severe punishment of mistakes.


3. Schizoid (or detached)

Social isolation from the rest of the organization.


4. Depressive

Low self-esteem and haunted by a guilty past.


5. Compulsive

Obsessed with detail and controlling others.


These may initially contribute to an organization’s success, but eventually they will contribute to its failure, if they are over-used.


Key quote on business success

Decision making, leadership, strategy formation, structuring and organizational change are influenced in subtle and complex ways by “invisible”, long-standing psychological forces of which the individual is usually unaware,  


The Leadership Mystique (2001)


The best leaders have emotional intelligence i.e. the ability to build successful relationships.


So successful leadership requires:


1. Self-knowledge

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses.


2. Self-criticism

(having the humility and moral courage to admit your weaknesses and do something about them).

So avoid ego driven narcissism and tackle your psychological problems, even though the consequences may be unpleasant.

We are all potentially prisoners of our past (particularly our childhood), and we must learn to free ourselves from it.


3. Patience and perseverance

(they can move mountains).


4. Active listening

Absorbing what people say and acting upon it.


5. Change

Being prepared to:

  • challenge the status quo.
  • abandon obsolete ideas.
  • push yourself and your organization to create a new and better future.

Avoid the mussel syndrome (the natural human aversion to change).

Welcome people who:

  • challenge your views.
  • accept constructive criticism.


6. Authentic living

Creating an authentizotic organization in which every employee leads a psychologically fulfilling, authentic life from:

  • high self-esteem.
  • learning and empowerment.
  • job satisfaction.
  • work-life balance - nobody’s last words were “I should have spent more time in the office”.


7. Visibility and availability

Meet people and involve them in decision making.


8. Integrity

Knowing and practising your principles.


9. Trust and empowerment

Encourage people to take responsibility for decisions and results.

A leader should b a helmsman “who shows fellow travellers the way by walking ahead”.


10. Continuous learning

Learning from other people and experience.


Key quote on business success (2nd edition, 2006)

Organizations are like automobiles. They don’t run themselves, except downhill. They need people to make them work. And not just any people but the right people.


Key quote on leadership

If the leadership dimension isn’t in place, a company simply can’t be successful.

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