Skip to main content
main-content

Über dieses Buch

A collection of short, bite-sized nuggets of insight into the psychological ups and downs of the leadership journey from one of the world’s top thinkers on leadership.

Leadership often means living on the edge, living a life less ordinary, leaving the straight and narrow to take a more exciting path. Like riding a roller coaster, there will be moments that take our breath away but it is in those moments that we feel truly alive. Although we may not know what is coming round the next bend or after the next rise, we have a great time on the ride.

Kets de Vries’s examination of the “inner theatre” pushes leaders and their coaches to become a personal and organizational detectives, to look beyond the obvious and discover the deeper meaning of their own and others’ actions. Doing so can prevent leaders becoming prisoners of their own past, failing to recognize the repetitive patterns in their behavior, making the same mistakes over and over again.

Leaders are more likely than followers to experience ups and downs, successes and failures, happy days and sad. The intensity of the experience depends on the “rider.” They can scream or enjoy the ride—or, indeed, do both. They can make the best out of the beginnings and endings, the good times and bad, or they can sink beneath them. In Riding the Leadership Rollercoaster Kets de Vries provides leaders and their coaches with the insights that can help them take some control of the ride.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Going Down …

Frontmatter

1. I Hate My Boss

Toxic Relationships in the Workplace
Abstract
Alice loved working for the Achristos Corporation until her boss moved to another organization. All the executives at Achristos, including her former boss, had been pleased with her and positive about her future in the company. However, all that changed when her new boss arrived. He viewed Alice very differently. The old chemistry was well and truly gone and he openly disliked the team he inherited. Within 12 months, he had systematically replaced most of Alice’s colleagues and implemented a scorched earth policy toward any initiatives he hadn’t originated himself. It didn’t matter if a project had obvious value to the organization; if it wasn’t his brainchild, he wrote it off.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

2. Riding for a Fall

Hubris—It’s Really Real
Abstract
Antonio del Porte—“Tonio”—was a rising star in the organization. The first thing everyone commented on when they met him was his self-assertion. In any meeting, formal or informal, he spoke out with total confidence. His repeated claim that he knew how to get results, and would get them, was very convincing. He certainly attracted a lot of attention upwards in the organization. If one or two thought he “talked big” and found him smug and overbearing, for the others he could do no wrong. It was generally accepted that he was headed for a very senior position.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

3. Why Them and Not Me?

Dealing with the Problem of Envy
Abstract
As VP of Quality Control of a global pharmaceutical company, Fabienne was notorious for the way she radiated negativity. Angry and highly irritable, she ran other people down, begrudged them their positions in the company, disparaged their intelligence, and never acknowledged their achievements. She made no attempt to hide her resentment of others’ success. If someone challenged her attitude, she would retaliate, rationalizing or intellectualizing her behavior.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

4. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

The Greed Syndrome
Abstract
Pavel felt that he had had a good day. At the most recent board meeting of the Raler Company, he had managed to push through a salary and bonus packet worth $20 million. He was quite pleased with the fact that his CEO-to-worker pay ratio stood now at 400:1. But in spite of his formidable pay packet, it niggled him that some of his colleagues in other listed companies were making more than he was. All was not lost, however. He had other irons in the fire. His purchase of the most advanced Gulfstream corporate jet made him feel better—at least for the moment. Raler had also paid for his New York penthouse apartment, and aside from these financial windfalls, he had a generous expense account. The way he had set it up gave him unrestricted opportunities to claim for many personal items, including yacht rental of $20,000 the previous summer.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

5. Feeling Sorry for the Super-Rich?

A Nasty Case of Affluenza
Abstract
In my professional encounters, I have met many extremely wealthy individuals who suffer from affluenza, or wealth fatigue syndrome. The main symptoms of this condition are a relentless quest for material gain—money, possessions, appearances (physical and social), and fame—and paradoxically, also misery. Their acquisitions and conspicuous consumption fail to make affluenza sufferers happy. In fact, they can experience a range of psychological disorders, including feelings of alienation and deep distress. The typical symptoms of affluenza are workaholism, depression, lack of motivation, an inability to delay gratification or tolerate frustration, and a false sense of entitlement.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

6. It’s Not My Fault

The Problem of Denialism
Abstract
Having geared himself up to tell Tom, his boss, that he had made a terrible mistake in firing the head of IT, Steve realized that he was wasting his time. There was no way his boss was going to accept that it was his own decision that had had such a costly and devastating effect on the organization. Its result was genuine chaos, a walkout of some of the most capable people in the department, and a temporary lockdown of the company’s key operations. Yet Tom persisted in denying that he had made a mistake. Everybody knew there had been problems in the IT department but equally everybody knew that the head of IT wasn’t the person responsible. The problem lay with one of the company’s sub-contractors—a consulting firm that Tom had brought in. But Tom still refused to listen to what Steve had to say and despite the alarming aftermath insisted that he had made the right decision. The head of IT had never been up to the job and he should have fired him much earlier. According to him, Steve was exaggerating when he pointed out that the company had almost gone into the red. In fact, Steve should hold himself responsible for the mess as he’d introduced the head of IT in the first place.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

7. It’s Hard Being Normal

Mental Health Issues
Abstract
What is “normal” in mental health terms? Is being normal doing what normal people do? Should we aspire to be normal? Is it normal not to feel normal? Is it normal when we realize that we are different from others?
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

8. The M&A Crap Game

“Marrying” to Fight Boredom
Abstract
Noreen was wondering yet again what had gone wrong. The deal had looked so promising two years ago, so why had everything turned sour? Over and over again she had emphasized that the merger would create substantial value for the customers and shareholders of both companies, contributing to competitive advantage and increased market power. It was a no-brainer. It would be good for everyone. Synergy was the key word.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

9. Team or Harem?

The Me, Me, Me Leader
Abstract
Edward was thoroughly angry at the situation he found himself in. In fact he was kicking himself. He had plenty of management experience but he’d been so flattered to be asked to join the executive team of the Serail Corporation as VP Finance that he hadn’t done his homework properly. He’d just found out that one of his close colleagues had been given an almost identical portfolio.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

10. OK, That’s It

Retirement
Abstract
When Jerry came to see me, he complained of feelings of deep sadness and emptiness. He felt lost in his life. He and his wife were more like strangers sharing a space than two people with anything in common. Their children, now grown up, were all busy building lives of their own and he seemed unable to find a way to relate to them, their interests, and their young families. He thought endlessly about the emptiness of his life, which had formerly seemed so full and rewarding. When I asked him about his own interests, it was clear he had never had any outside work. He was very depressed. There was a sense of helplessness and hopelessness about him. He also seemed physically unwell. In his case—as is true for many people—retirement has a detrimental effect on his health. Jerry was a recently retired CEO.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

11. What, Already?

Meeting the Grim Reaper
Abstract
I’m willing to bet that death rarely features in discussions in the boardroom or around the water cooler. It certainly doesn’t feature in mainstream motivational theories or textbooks on organizational behavior and motivation. But death is out there, an alarming and ever-present reality, and it affects every aspect of our life, including work, whether or not we talk or think about it. Because death is the ultimate stealth motivator.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

Going Up …

Frontmatter

12. You’ve Got to Laugh

Humor in the Workplace
Abstract
Everyone agreed that Jack, the company’s VP Information Systems, was a very funny guy. He had an unusual way with humor; self-deprecating, he knew how to get laughs out of people and to help them see the lighter side of things. But there was also a darker side to his humor, especially when it was directed at others. Some laughed when he joked about others’ imperfections, but found his words left them with a bitter aftertaste. His co-workers began to feel unsure about the way Jack used humor. He gave off conflicting signals. Was he using humor as a defense against his own insecurities? Was his self-deprecation covering up real fear and pain? Was his teasing of others a mask for his underlying hostility? Or was making others the butt of his jokes a way of deflecting attention from himself and avoiding getting too close to them?
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

13. I Forgive You All

On Forgiveness
Abstract
In one of my recent leadership development seminars I had a CEO, let’s call him Gary, who seemed very bitter about life. He would put a negative spin on every suggestion I made. Curious about his remarkable negativity, I asked him to tell me more about himself. After a little prompting, he was ready to talk—and his narrative wasn’t pleasant to hear.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

14. Thank You Kindly

On Gratitude
Abstract
The corporate culture at Nexobank was toxic. Some even described the working environment as “Darwinian”—it was survival of the fittest. Everyone seemed to be out for themselves and teamwork was non-existent. What’s more, greed, bullying, and even plain illegal behavior were rampant. Singularly focused on profits and bonuses, the senior leadership team whittled away at their employees’ self-confidence, health, and sanity. The results were decreased productivity, low morale, serious absenteeism, and a disturbingly high employee turnover. For many, working at the bank had become an emotionally draining experience.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

15. Every Seven Seconds

Sexuality in the Workplace
Abstract
This is what a senior executive once told me about sex:
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

16. Just Get on With It

Getting Things Done
Abstract
Top executives need to realize that execution of strategy is not an abstract exercise. It involves people. And getting people to work together toward a common goal is not a given. As many senior executives have learned the hard way, getting everyone on the same page can be an uphill struggle. Even if people have the will to follow a certain path, they may not have the skills to get them there. They may engage in the kind of behavior that makes teamwork very difficult.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

17. “Yo Suis ein European”

Identity Issues
Abstract
Look up Europe on the Internet and the top site tells you that Europe is “a continent that comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.” Yet how many people who grew up, live, work, or simply visit Europe today really think of its geography or its national boundaries? How do people born in one of the European Union’s member states define what it means to be European? Here’s Carlos’s answer to that question:
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

18. If You Can Make It There …

Global Coaching
Abstract
The move to Brazil was turning out to be more complex than Augusto had expected. The whole experience had been a real culture shock. The family was having a hard time adapting to their new life, and it hadn’t been easy for the children to start a new school. Although they had overcome the language barrier very quickly, they missed their friends back home. Augusto and Marion had presented the move as an adventure but the reality turned out to be quite different. To start with, there were the hassles with the house. Workmen promised to come but rarely kept their promises. They seemed not to have heard of schedules—unlike Marion. They had relocated to São Paulo following her appointment as head of sales for Latin America. Now Marion, worried about her new responsibilities and feeling abandoned by her home office, spent long hours at work, came home exhausted, made a half-hearted effort to read a story to the children, and was then absorbed by her email before collapsing into bed. They hardly seemed to speak any more and their sex life was non-existent. When Augusto complained about the way the marriage was going, Marion would retort that he was drinking too much. But what was so wrong with having a few drinks to relax?
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

19. Leader of the Pack

The Thrill-Seeker in the Workplace
Abstract
When Lawrence Devon, the VP Sales of a large retail group, was asked to see the CEO urgently, he knew the request was not good news. Obviously, he had done it again. Why did he always manage to get himself into such muddles?
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

20. Shine, Shine, Shine

On Being a Star Performer
Abstract
Over the years I have observed that organizational high-flyers are often a study in paradox. They display many contradictory behavior patterns. But it’s precisely their paradoxical behavior that makes them so successful. Spotting nascent stars can be a real challenge, however, not least because we can’t always be sure what we’re looking for. Some may impress us as “golden larvae” but never turn into butterflies. Others are butterflies who can suddenly emerge out of nowhere.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

21. Making the Best of It

On Happiness
Abstract
Carl was unhappy and he had been for a very long time. He was unhappy with his work, with his life, with the world, and, most of all, with himself. Carl was a fully paid-up member of the self-pity club. His view of the world had always been dark. He was a pessimist and moaner who believed he was fated to have bad things happen to him. Life was unfair and he was its victim. Others were much more fortunate than he was and he envied them. He hardly helped himself by never expressing any gratitude to people who were kind to him. His wife was thoroughly fed up and at her wits’ end. None of her efforts to accommodate Carl seemed to be good enough.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

Just Rolling …

Frontmatter

22. Black, White, and Gray

Coping with the Bivalent Leadership Style
Abstract
Most who knew her agreed that Joan wasn’t the easiest person to deal with. She quickly got on people’s nerves. Of course, her behavior wasn’t all bad. As one of the senior executives in the company, she had a number of excellent qualities. She was creative, she had a great capacity for work, and she was extremely knowledgeable about the industry. So why, with all that talent, did she need to engage in so much drama? Why was she so rigid in her outlook? Why the angry outbursts, the constant criticism of everything and everyone, the half-truths, rumor spreading, and manipulation? Why did she always force everybody to choose sides? Didn’t she realize that—in most situations—there is such a thing as the middle ground? But “compromise” didn’t feature in Joan’s vocabulary.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

23. Fear of Failure or Fear of Success?

Dealing with the Hannibals in the C-Suite
Abstract
In 218 bce Hannibal undertook a tour de force, crossing the Alps with 45,000 men and 70 elephants, in one of the most monumental feats in military history. His strategic brilliance, daring, and aptitude as a leader made him one of the greatest military commanders of all time. His decisive victory at the Battle of Cannae against a significantly larger Roman army is the stuff of legend. Where Hannibal fumbled was his failure to seize the big prize: Rome. Although he had several opportunities to do so, Hannibal never chose to attack and conquer the city.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

24. Why Do We Do What We Do?

Self-Knowledge
Abstract
In 600 bce, Greek sage Thales of Miletus observed that the most difficult thing in the world was “to know thyself.” His observation is as true today as it was then, and is even timelier now, as Sigmund Freud’s theories about unconscious mental processes are being rediscovered. Freud used the metaphor of the iceberg to describe the human mind. The part seen above the water is the conscious mind but the bulk of the iceberg lies unseen beneath the waterline and represents the unconscious.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

25. Keeping it Real

The Need for Authenticity
Abstract
Visitors to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts can admire Paul Gauguin’s most famous painting, “Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?” The huge canvas depicts a variety of figures, all Tahitian, each engaged in a particular and significant act, raising symbolic questions about the human condition. Gauguin intended the painting to be read counter-intuitively from right to left, and it depicts three stages in our life journey—birth and childhood, adulthood, and old age and impending death.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

26. You Cannot Be Serious

On Gravitas
Abstract
The two-horse succession race at the Rosen Company was reaching closure. The time had come when the candidates, Derek and John, would find out which of them would succeed the CEO. However, they knew nothing about the goings-on at the most recent board meeting. At one heated moment, during an intense discussion about their candidatures, one of the members of the selection committee had made it clear that she felt Derek was the more qualified of the two. Asked to elaborate, she said she thought John did not have the “gravitas” needed for the job. Given the challenges the company was facing, gravitas was top of her list of “must-have” qualities for the CEO. During a subsequent discussion, most of the other board members agreed, although none of them ever asked for a clarification of what she meant by “gravitas.”
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

27. Just Write it Down

Writing as Therapy
Abstract
In one of my leadership development workshops, Simon, a senior executive at an oil company, felt compelled to talk about an incident that he had never properly dealt with. He told the other participants about a harrowing experience he had had in Nigeria when he was held hostage during a visit to one of the oil rigs for which he was responsible. He recounted tearfully how during the hostage-taking, two of the other hostages—his close colleagues—were killed before his eyes. After long, drawn-out negotiations on the size of the ransom demanded by his kidnappers, he was finally let go. Although Simon was very lucky to escape with his life, the memory of what happened lingered on. From that moment, he had been plagued by nightmares of his terrible experience. But while recounting his story, he said that he had started to feel better since he had tackled one of the assignments in the workshop, which was to write a reflection paper about this difficult experience.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

28. Ecotherapy

On Getting Out and About
Abstract
It had been quite some time since Jasper had felt his usual self. Ever since he had been promoted, and had moved to head office in the city, his mental state hadn’t been the same. He was anxious and restless. He missed his old house in the country, daily walks with his dog in the woods, and being surrounded by nature. Now, the best he could do was a short walk in the nearest park, a subway stop away. But it wasn’t the same. All it did was make his nostalgia for the woods more poignant. Jasper knew his current state of mind was affecting his motivation and the quality of his work. He found it a challenge to maintain focus, he made mistakes, and he was often in a foul mood. He was seriously questioning whether he would be able to hold on to his job.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

29. Sweet FA

The Art of Doing Nothing
Abstract
Hélène runs a large organization in the educational field. I was curious about her working habits and asked her how many emails she received every day. “Five hundred,” she said, then continued in a rather upbeat manner, “Frankly, I don’t read any of them. If I did, I wouldn’t really be doing my job. My job is to think about the future of education in my country. These days, given the work I do, it isn’t a question of obtaining information. The more important question is how to push information away so that I don’t suffer from information overload. I need to have time to think.”
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

30. Dream Journeys

The Royal Road to the Unconscious
Abstract
Lee, the CEO of an IT company, told me about a dream in which he was walking toward his summerhouse but then realized he was completely naked. The only thing he had to cover himself with was a very small towel. As he started to run home he noticed neighbors on their balconies laughing at him. Suddenly he tripped over, lost his towel, and spotted his wallet lying empty on the ground. He woke up feeling vulnerable and unprotected.
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

Backmatter

Weitere Informationen

Premium Partner

    Bildnachweise