Professor Manfred Kets de Vries

Professor Manfred Kets de Vries

You started teaching at INSEAD in 1971, leaving in 1973 and returning in 1984. Why did you leave?

In the early 1970's INSEAD was a very young business school, establishing its presence. During these early years, there was a lot of financial anxiety within the school and costs needed to be reduced. One measure was to freeze faculty salaries, though with inflation running at around 8% this amounted to a pay cut. Another option was simply not to renew faculty contracts. In 1973 three contracts came up and were not renewed. One of them was mine! "

What did you do?

"Well I was quite upset with INSEAD and wrote a memo to faculty

members complaining that there was no due process. This prompted a faculty meeting where the faculty rebelled against what was happening. There was talk of striking. It led to the creation of the faculty evaluation committee to prevent such things from happening in the future. But as we all know, whistleblowers have to go! So I departed. It was not pleasant at the time, but in hindsight it helped me in my personal development.”

"I first returned to Harvard where I became a research fellow for a year. Then the next year Henry Minzberg offered me a position at McGill University as an OB and Strategy professor. Much later I also became a visiting professor at INSEAD, Harvard and HEC, Montreal until, in 1984, I came back to INSEAD as a full time professor of OB."

Why did you choose to come to INSEAD to teach originally?

"For many reasons such as nostalgia for Europe, my roots being Dutch, and the quality and diversity of the student body at INSEAD - although this point can prove to be challenging!"

You have been Director of the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre since its launch in 2003. Can you tell us about the centre, its activities, goals, etc?

"IGLC was launched in recognition of the need for global leadership development and research. Its goal is to share expertise and best practices about leadership on a global scale, and to engage in cross-cultural research. Most importantly, however, is the question of how to find better ways to develop leaders in a more effective manner. Keep in mind that the mission of IGLC is to help leaders create results-driven, sustainable organisations by creating reflective leaders, high performance teams, and best places to work. The idea is that you can have the best technology, the greatest economies of scale, but if you don’t have the people equation right, you will not go very far. We try to help executives to create companies where people are result oriented, entrepreneurial, team players, and responsible corporate citizens."

Where did the initiative to lauch IGLC come from?

"It was a response to the market that INSEAD recognized. Professor Soumitra Dutta, as Dean of Executive Education, was the first faculty member to see the need for a leadership development centre. A core faculty team was then put together. I have been the Director of the centre since its foundation. It has since evolved recognizing where and how it can be of most benefit."

How is the centre funded?

"It is actually an important source of income for INSEAD. Roughly 6% of INSEAD's income from executive education last year came from IGLC. I won't even mention the programmes that would have gone to our competition if the centre didn’t exist."

How many INSEAD faculty members are involved? Are faculty members from other business schools involved at all?

"The core faculty team has 6 members including myself. The other 5 are; Clinical Adjunct Professors
Elisabet Engellau, Roger Lehman, Jean-Claude Noel, Stanislav Shekshia and Martine Van Den Poel, who is an Executive Coach and Programme Director. I have research support, particularly from Elizabeth Florent. And also, extremely importantly, our administrative staff who keep the centre running. We do involve professors from other business schools. But our preference is to involve our INSEAD permanent faculty.”

Does the centre hold many events? Forums?

"Presently, the centre does not hold any events of its own; however, we do participate in an annual event held by the Advisory Committee for Management Education (ACME). I also speak at many other events, I am often (maybe too often) asked to attend breakfast meetings, lunches, or to speak at other public gatherings. I give an enormous number of speeches and interviews to the press doing public relations about the centre. If we could have more resources I can see the centre organising events at INSEAD."

Can you explain how the centre works with programmes at INSEAD? Can you name some of these programmes?

"IGLC provides over 100 programme teaching days and over 250 coaching days involving somewhere in the region of 1500 participants and 7500 observers. Observers being those who have evaluated a participant using different forms of 360 degree feedback instrumentation that we have supplied them with." The open enrolment programmes IGLC runs or participates in are:

  • The Challenge of Leadership: Creating Reflective Leaders
  • Consulting and Coaching for Change
  • Coaching for Leadership
  • The Leadership Transition
  • Advanced Management Programme
  • Programme Supérieur pour Dirigeants
  • Young Managers Programme
  • International Executive Programme
  • Executive MBA

“In addition, I am trying to create for next year a top management leadership programme based on our Singapore campus. INSEAD also hosts a large number of company specific programmes (CSP) - a company sends a group of its employees to INSEAD to take a programme specifically designed for them. The IGLC works with these companies to create customised leadership and team building modules. Some of the companies we work with are; Ahlstrom, Aventis, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, SAP, Standard Chartered Bank, Manpower."

The centre has now appointed an Executive Director, Agata Halczewska-Figuet, what exactly does her role involve?

"Agata joined the centre last January, she is a graduate of the Consulting and Coaching for Change programme at INSEAD. Before that she was the HR Director at Apple, France. She will be working with our 5 programme directors as well as overseeing our administrative staff. She will be involved in programme design, the selling of programmes, coach selection, and in key decisions concerning the various modules. In addition, she will also do some leadership coaching."

How much has IGLC’s participation in INSEAD programmes increased since it’s launch?

Agata Halczewska-Figuet
"By more or less 50%. Furthermore, we have very ambitious plans to grow, increasing dramatically our contribution to INSEAD’s bottom line. But it is all a question of resources."

Is the centre run equally on both campuses?

"This is our goal! But we are far from there. The centre has been launched on both campuses but has a much stronger presence in Fontainebleau. We are working on increasing awareness for the centre in Singapore. The proposition to do a public top management programme for an Asian audience being one example.”

Can you tell us about the tools you use, the audits used to evaluate participants?

"Yes, presently we have 3 types of major 360 degree leadership audits. 360 degree means the leadership audit is completed by the participants about themselves and also by a small group of their colleagues, subordinates and superior(s) about the participant. The results are then evaluated in sessions devoted to individual feedback, held within the programme the participant is taking. As opposed to leadership development programmes at other institutions, most of our coaching is done on a group basis as such an approach (in our experience) has a much greater impact, particularly in the case of “natural” working groups. The participants are split into small groups of 5 to 6 which are facilitated by a clinically trained coach. The participants will focus, with the coach, on each member of the group for approximately 1 hour. A leadership action plan is then developed. As well as developing this plan, engaging in this group coaching process helps the participants to hone their leadership coaching skills, plus it creates buy-in from everybody to the various development plans. It really is a fantastic way to create high performance teams and boundaryless organisations.”

Can you go into more detail about the 3 audits?

"Yes, the first one is the 'Global Executive Leadership Inventory' (GELI). This is a 12 dimension leadership audit focusing on; Visioning, Empowering, Energising, Designing and Aligning, Rewarding and Giving Feedback, Team Building, Outside Stakeholder Orientation, Global Mindset, Tenacity, Emotional Intelligence, Life Balance and Resilience to Stress." The Global Executive Leadership Inventory is now in the public domain and can be ordered for example on"

"The 'Personality Audit' focuses on 7 dimensions presented as polarities; Low - High Self Esteem, Vigilence - Trust, Laissez - Faire - Conscientiousness, Self-Effacement - Assertiveness, Introversion - Extroversion, Low Spirited - High Spirited; Prudent - Adventurous."

"The 'Leadership Archetype Questionnaire', is my most recent creation. It answers the need to have an audit which is basically faster to complete than the more comprehensive GELI. After all, we are competing as a centre with a number of very resource rich institutions. This instrument deals with leadership styles and team behaviour. Like the other two instruments it is based on my research and 15 years of in depth observation of CEOs in the classroom."

Do you ever run all 3 surveys on the same group of people?

"At times, depending on the situation. But this is not my choice, it is the programme director that decides. The most obvious one for them to use is the first one, the Global Executive Leadership Inventory, as it is very organizationally oriented."

Did you create all 3 audits?

"I started the conceptual process but then my team took over and did a marvelous job in creating seamless instrumentation".

Do participants implement their action plans? Do they send feedback?

"Yes, the majority of participants implement their action plan and find it an extremely useful experience."
Some comments received:

"It has been a unique experience!" (IEP)
"A turning point for me." (AMP)
"Extremely helpful exercise - well worth the preparation!" (YMP)

Does anyone ever not answer the audit, or refuse to answer some questions? I imagine that it is mandatory?

"Mandatory is a harsh word. Nothing is mandatory. But I tell them, 'No interpretation without association.’ We need a minimum amount of data to work with. But it’s their choice. Otherwise, they cannot participate in the group coaching session. Participants must answer all questions. Observers may not be able to answer some personal questions about the participant which of course is taken into account."

Does this information go back to the company that the applicant has come from or is it confidential?

"All data received is totally confidential. Confidentiality is a must. In some cases the participant may sign his data off to be used for a specific purpose."

Are there any other assessment tools that you use?

"Yes but not as psychometrically robust as the ones described. I am thinking about writing another audit based on Organizational Culture."

Does psychoanalysis touch/influence your work?

“ I started as an economist, to continue as a management scholar. After all, I did an MBA and a doctorate at Harvard. But I am also trained as a psychoanalyst, and this does of course influence my work. I found when I was studying organizational behavior that too much attention was given to structures and systems and not enough to the person. I wanted to bring the person back into the organisation. For that purpose the clinical way of looking at the world has been quite helpful. But as far as my interventions are concerned, I am everything but a classical psychoanalyst. I do whatever works. My conceptual frameworks come (apart from psychoanalysis) from cognitive theory, family systems theory, neuropsychiatry, and developmental psychology."

Are you involved at all with the MBA participants/programme?

"I have run independent projects with MBA students, which did actually lead to some new leadership case studies, but I am not in contact with them on a regular basis. However, I used to teach the core Organizational Behaviour course for 20 years. I guess, I know how to do it! It was time to do something different."

Do you have much contact with our alumni?

"Yes, I do meet our alumni at events where I am speaking quite frequently in different parts of the world."

If any of our alumni would like to be actively involved in the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre, would this be of interest to you? If so who should they contact?

"Yes, of course, they can contact the centre's Executive Director Agata Halczewska-Figuet or my assistant,
Sheila Loxham."

Manfred has received many awards and honors for his work, click here for a detailed list. He also holds 32nd place in 'The Thinkers 50', an independent list of influential business thinkers updated annually. (Rankings are based on the voters of 1200 business people, consultants, academics, MBA students and visitors to the project's website).

Some recent articles:

Leadership Group Coaching in Action: The Zen of Creating High Performance Teams.
Academy of Management Executive, 2005, Vol. 19, N°1

Although one-on-one coaching can be very effective, this article advocates the benefits of leadership coaching in a group setting, because durable changes in leadership behavior are more likely to occur. Discussion is offered to show that leadership group coaching establishes a foundation of trust, makes for constructive conflict resolution, leads to greater commitment, and contributes to accountability, all factors that translate into better results for the organisation. The article suggests that a change methodology centered on leadership group coaching creates high-performance teams, is an antidote to organisational silo formation, helps put into place boundaryless organisations, and makes for true knowledge management.

The Dangers of Feeling Like a Fake
Harvard Business Review, September 2005

In this article, Manfred explores the subject of neurotic imposture and outlines its classic symptoms: fear of failure, fear of success, perfectionism, procrastination, and workaholism. He then describes how perfectionist overachievers can damage their careers, their colleagues' morale, and the bottom line by allowing anxiety to trigger self-handicapping behavior and cripple the very organisations they're trying so hard to please. Manfred offers his advice on how to limit the incidence of neurotic imposture and mitigate its damage through discreet vigilance, appropriate intervention, and constructive support. For a copy of this article, please contact:

How to be the Best Coach for Your Team
Harvard Business Review, November 2005

This article examines two recently proposed models for team coaching that tackle this challenge from very different angles and offers a starting point for considering what type of coaching intervention could best help your team. Manfred explains how a team can improve interpersonal relationships by altering team members' behaviours. This process of 'Leadership Group Coaching' requires a specifically trained coach who has some training in psychological techniques and methods and possesses a deep understanding of organisational life. For a full copy of this article, please contact:

Putting Leaders on the Couch: A Conversation with Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries
Harvard Business Review, January 2004

In this article Manfred explores what really goes on inside the mind of the leader. He explores how leaders’ vulnerabilities play out in organisations and suggests how leaders might overcome them. For a full copy of this article, please contact: