Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries
Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change
Psychodynamic Approach; Clinical Paradigm; Effective Leadership; Case Study; Self-Assessment;
At its heart, leadership is about human behaviour— what we do, how we do it and why we do it. Leadership is about the way people behave in organizations and effective leaders are those who meet the needs of their followers; pay careful attention to group processes; able to calm anxieties and arouse hopes and aspirations; and know how to liberate human energy and inspire people to positive action. In short, leadership involves harnessing and leveraging the different and complex forces and dynamics at play in organizational functioning. The psychodynamic approach to leadership study and development focuses on the dynamics of human behaviour which are often the most difficult to understand. It acknowledges that people are complex, unique and paradoxical beings with rich and myriad motivational drivers, and decision-making and interaction patterns. Applying psychodynamic concepts to the ebb and flow of life in organizations contributes to our understanding of the vicissitudes of life and leadership. Only through accepting and exploring the hidden undercurrents that affect human behaviour can we begin to understand organizational life in all its complexities. This chapter provides an overview of the psychodynamic approach, including historical underminnings, its key concepts, and includes three case studies with which to apply the psychodynamic approach as well as a short self-assessment on leadership archetype.