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  • Manfred Kets de Vries: Leadership & the Psychological Impact of the Pandemic
    Manfred Kets de Vries: Leadership & the Psychological Impact of the Pandemic
  • From hero to zero - when leaders turn bad: Manfred Kets de Vries at TEDxAmsterdam
    From hero to zero - when leaders turn bad: Manfred Kets de Vries at TEDxAmsterdam
  • Manfred Kets de Vries at the Synergy Global Forum, Moscow 2018
    Manfred Kets de Vries at the Synergy Global Forum, Moscow 2018
  • Manfred Kets de Vries | Leadership & Beyond
    Manfred Kets de Vries | Leadership & Beyond
  • INSEAD Professor Manfred Kets de Vries on the quest for authenticity
    INSEAD Professor Manfred Kets de Vries on the quest for authenticity
  • INSEAD Professor Manfred Kets De Vries on star performers
    INSEAD Professor Manfred Kets De Vries on star performers
  • Leadership begins at home
    Leadership begins at home

Learn More About Manfred Kets de Vries

Companies are a lot like cars, says Manfred Kets de Vries, one of the world’s leading management gurus and a top expert on leadership. They don’t run themselves – except downhill – and they need people to make them work. And not just any people, but the right ones.

The effectiveness of employees, particularly individuals in leadership positions, determines how the organizational “machine” performs. What differentiates truly great organizations, stresses Kets de Vries, the Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at INSEAD, are the attitudes of its people. A highly regarded expert on organizational leadership, he’s on a mission to create the kinds of companies that bring out the best in everyone, leading to increased productivity, higher retention, greater creativity, reduced organizational stress, greater work satisfaction, and more fulfilling lives.

Straddling the worlds of management, psychology and economics, Kets de Vries brings a unique and robust perspective to leadership and the dynamics of individual and organizational change. Drawing from deep knowledge and expertise gained over decades of working with C-suite executives, his entertaining and informative presentations show that winning organizations are those where people can reach their maximum potential: a coaching culture prevails, employees possess a solid dose of emotional intelligence, and employees at all levels feel empowered to have courageous conversations. Kets de Vries calls these authentizotic organizations, or places of work where people feel at their best. He further explains that if we are to understand the dynamics of leadership, teams, and organizational culture, we must be willing to go beyond the directly observable. Leaders must have “night vision,” the ability to help individuals and organizations transform by paying attention to a number of company characteristics: internal social dynamics, the intricate playing field between leaders and followers, and the unconscious and out-of-awareness processes and structures that influence the behavior of individuals and teams. It’s in authentizotic organizations where people find meaning in their work, enjoy the people they work with, have pride in what they’re doing, and trust those they work for and with.

Kets de Vries is a pioneer in leadership group coaching, using it as an experiential training ground for developing more effective leaders. He’s perfected his model over the last 20 years of customizing and delivering programs to top-level executives; it’s a proven process whereby people are nudged to reinvent themselves. Today, it’s successfully applied all over the world, in organizations as diverse as Accenture, BP, Deutsche Bank, Ericsson, GE Capital, Goldman Sachs, Heineken, KPMG, Lego, Lufthansa, McKinsey, Nokia, Novo Nordisk, Shell, Unilever and Volvo Car Corporation.

In introducing the leadership group coaching methodology to INSEAD (facilitated by having been the founding-director of INSEAD’s Global Leadership Center and INSEAD’s master’s program on change management) Kets de Vries has helped change the culture of the institution and the nature of its programs. The ultimate goal of his intervention technique has been to make organizations and their leaders more effective and more humane. To further enable this orientation to individual and organizational change, he is also the Chairman of the Kets de Vries Institute (KDVI), a strategic leadership development consulting firm. He is very much focused on teaching decision makers how to improve their performance by knowing themselves and acting on that knowledge more effectively—and how to use that knowledge to create better places to work.

By putting humans at the center of his work, Kets de Vries’ presentations and consulting explore and make accessible the interface between management theory, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, executive coaching, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. His many areas of expertise range from C-suite team building, executive coaching, leadership (the bright and dark side) and entrepreneurship, to change management and organizational development, career dynamics, talent and cross-cultural management and succession planning.

Kets de Vries captures his provocative and prescriptive insights in writing, too. He is a best-selling author, co-author or editor of more than 50 books that zero in on the psychological realities that determine – and influence – human and organizational behavior. These titles include: “The Leadership Mystique” (2001), “The Leader on the Couch” (2006), “The Hedgehog Effect” (2011),  “Mindful Leadership Coaching,” and “Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership” (2018).  His latest book is tentatively titled, “Being a CEO Whisperer: Meditations on Leaders, Life and Change.”

In addition, Kets de Vries has published more than 400 academic papers as chapters in books and as articles. He has also written approximately 100 case studies, including seven that received the Best Case of the Year award. He is a regular writer for numerous magazines and his work has been featured in top-tier publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Fortune, BusinessWeek, The Economist, and Financial Times. He also frequently contributes blogs to INSEAD Knowledge and the Harvard Business Review.

A member of 17 editorial boards and elected a Fellow of the Academy of Management, Kets de Vries is also a founding member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO), which has honored him as a lifetime member. His other honors and awards are many, including being the first non-U.S. recipient of the International Leadership Association Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to leadership research and development (being considered one of the world’s founding professionals in the development of leadership as a field and discipline); he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Germany for his advancement of executive education; the American Psychological Association honored him with the Harry and Miriam Levinson Award for his contributions to organizational consultation; he received the Freud Memorial Award for his work to further the interface between management and psychoanalysis; and he is the first beneficiary of the INSEAD Dominique Héau Award for “Inspiring Educational Excellence.” Kets de Vries also received two honorary doctorates. As an educator and consultant, Kets de Vries has worked in more than 50 countries.

Manfred Kets de Vries is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Manfred Kets de Vries was last modified: April 16th, 2024 by Whitney Jennings

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The Art, Science and Humanity of Leadership

“Know thyself” is a critical credo in leadership today, says Manfred Kets de Vries. To become more effective and reflective leaders, executives need to learn how to improve their behavioral reactions to difficult situations and develop greater emotional intelligence. It’s equal parts art and science, but at the heart of both is the leadership imperative to be more human – which in turn brings out the best in the humans who work for and with you. In this presentation, Kets de Vries examines the characteristics of charismatic and transformational leaders, the competencies, practices and roles that distinguish effective from ineffective leaders, and how executives can develop more potent leadership qualities. Discussion covers topics such as the corporate values that encourage and reinforce effective leadership in a global organization and the implications of operating in multi-cultural, global environments.

Secrets to High-Performance Teams and Organizations

What are the ingredients for a high-performance team? How can an organization’s culture support the creation of such teams? What’s needed to create a coaching oriented environment? How can an organization become a “best place to work” in which people perform at their very best? In an empathetic and compelling delivery, Kets de Vries draws on his long coaching and consulting career and deep personal experiences to throw light on leadership, the relationship between leaders and followers, the reasons why leaders derail, and the challenges we all face. He provokes audience members to reflect on drivers of their behavior and those around them, providing both the insights and the tools needed to create higher performing teams while achieving personal fulfillment. Kets de Vries also addresses the question of what happiness is and how to deconstruct this elusive concept, as well as the need to achieve balance in life which includes resolving the dichotomy between outward and inner success.

Kets de Vries - Quo Vadis

Quo Vadis? The Existential Challenges of Leaders

(Palgrave Macmillan, March 2021)

Journeys Into Coronavirus Land: Lessons From a Pandemic

(The Kets de Vries Institute, July 2020)

“I can’t imagine that there are many courses of this nature. If one is willing to take on truths about oneself, this is the course to take. Passionate and insightful. It is obvious that Manfred loves his work and cares about us as people.”

Lisa Forshey, ABSA Bank, South Africa

“Manfred is superb at helping CEOs understand their current environment and understand themselves much better. The forum helps you feel less lonely as you discuss common issues and threats. You assess more deeply what you are trying to achieve. We shared our mistakes and learnt from the different tracks that are possible. Manfred’s leadership of the group enabled us to help each other to open our eyes around the issues we had. There is a huge impact from having input from people who are detached and supportive. There were no barriers. Everything was there to be discussed and to be helped.”

Ron Bolger, Former Managing Partner, KPMG Ireland

“I had recently taken on new responsibility. The new leadership position put me into a stressful environment, adding to worries about my work-life balance. It was a lonely place and I was becoming frazzled. It was hard to find a proper mentor. My Chairman recommended Manfred’s course. It was a major commitment of time but I found it a liberation to be there. The experience has been staggering and a complete eye opener. I realized I was assuming burdens that I did not need to take on. The discussions give you a wealth of common sense to work from.”

David Ross, Chief Executive, Arthur J. Gallagher