Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

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Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries is a Dutch psychologist, Professor of leadership development and organizational change at INSEAD, and consultant. He is best known for bringing a different view to the much-studied subjects of leadership and the dynamics of individual and organizational change.[1] In 2009, he was rated amongst the Top 50 Thinkers in Management.


  • Narcissism is often the driving force behind the desire to obtain a leadership position. Perhaps individuals with strong narcissistic personality features are more willing to undertake the arduous process of attaining a position of power.
    • Manfred Kets de Vries and Danny Miller. "Narcissism and leadership: An object relations perspective." Human Relations 38.6 (1985): 583-601.
  • The economic crisis was a reflection of narcissism and very primitive defense mechanisms (such as a complete denial of economic reality) built into the financial system. The best and brightest MBA students have been going into investment banking; many of them used their brains essentially to play casino games, and not to add much value to society.
Now, we’ve seen the result. Look at the least-admired professions in most countries over the years: telemarketers and used-car salesmen. Today, you have bankers and CEOs achieving the same low rating. Companies like Citibank — which was the brainchild of one of the most visibly narcissistic executives in the world, Sanford Weill — have essentially collapsed. They have grown too complex for the people who work there to understand. I strongly question what the different parts of Citibank have in common. No matter what kinds of regulatory reforms are initiated, more companies will collapse this way, because narcissism breeds this kind of unmanageable grandiosity.

The Dangers of Feeling Like a Fake, 2005


Manfred Kets de Vries. The Dangers of Feeling Like a Fake, in: Harvard Business Review, September 2005;

  • To some extent, of course, we are all impostors. We play roles on the stage of life, presenting a public self that differs from the private self we share with intimates and morphing both selves as circumstances demand. Displaying a facade is part and parcel of the human condition. Indeed, one reason the feeling of being an impostor is so widespread is that society places enormous pressure on people to stifle their real selves.
    • Similar quote in De Vries (2011; 16)
  • Neurotic impostor CEOs are also highly likely to become addicted to consulting companies because reassurances provided by “impartial” outsiders compensate for the executives’ feelings of insecurity.
    • Similar quote in De Vries (2011; 17)
  • Fearing discovery of their “fraudulence,” they burden themselves with too much work to compensate for their lack of self-esteem and identity. Work/life balance is a meaningless concept to them.

The Leader on the Couch, 2011


Manfred Kets de Vries (2011). The Leader on the Couch: A Clinical Approach to Changing People and Organizations.

  • Despite the proven benefits of emotional intelligence, organizational life has typically been hostile to the inner world of feeling. Rationality is deemed superior to feeling, which can contaminate judgment. But without feeling there is no passion, and no action.
    • General introduction
  • To some extent, of course, we're all impostors—we all play roles when on the stage of life, presenting a different public self than the private self we share with intimates, and morphing both selves as circumstances demand. Displaying a facade and misleading our audience are defensive behaviors learned early.
    • p. 16
  • CEOS who are neurotic impostors are also likely to become addicted to consulting companies.
    • p. 17
  • Restructuring is a favorite tactic of antisocials who have reached a senior position in an organization. The chaos that results is an ideal smokescreen for dysfunctional leadership. Failure at the top goes unnoticed, while the process of restructuring creates the illusion of a strong, creative hand on the helm.
    • p. 22
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