Psychodynamic Issues in Organizational Leadership

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries,Elizabeth Florent-Treacy, and Konstantin Korotov

Kafka truly illustrates the way the environment oppresses the individual. He shows how the unconscious controls our lives.

Manuel Puig

The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the ­morning and does not stop until you get into the office.

Robert Frost

4.1 The Vicissitudes of Leadership

At its heart, leadership is about human behavior—understanding it and enhancing it. Leadership involves the highly complex interplay among individuals in systems, all within diverse situational contexts. It is about the way people and organizations behave, about creating and strengthening relationships, handling conflict, building commitment, establishing a group identity, and adapting behavior to increase effectiveness (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Burns, 1978; Kets de Vries, 2001c; Pfeffer, 1998; Stogdill & Bass, 1990).

Effective leaders are receptive to the needs of followers; they are cognizant of the sensitive nature of the leader–follower relationship; they pay careful attention to group processes. Such leaders know how to calm anxieties and arouse hopes and aspirations; they know how to transform personal needs into societal demands; they know how to liberate human energy and inspire people to positive action. They are able to transcend narrow, personal concerns—their own and their followers’. These leaders seek to create great places to work, and ...

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