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INSEAD Professor Manfred Kets de Vries on the quest for authenticity

Hello World, this is a test. Login Please enter your login details. Forgot password? Remember Me? Forgot Password? It happens, just reset it in a minute. Sorry, incorrect details. Welcome back pal! Please enter your User Name, email ID and a password to register. International Shipping at best shipping prices! The second value is a feeling of being a family.

Take W. Gore, which is probably one of the most creative companies in America. The family ethos is very important in this firm. He has gone to great lengths to maintain this family feeling. Then there is the quality of fun, or enjoyment, in the work itself. There is a very close relationship between play and creativity.


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The amount of fun and enjoyment that exists in a workplace can reflect how diverse teams are, the role of women, and the way teams work. There is a strong relationship between diversity — in terms of gender, culture, age, and background — and creativity.


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  4. Companies sometimes have to deliberately protect these values. KETS de VRIES: If a person has a narcissistic personality, that individual is always going to be somewhat narcissistic, but he or she can learn to become more aware of the results of such behavior. Imagine that you have an elephant inside you. The elephant is a metaphor for your inner theater, your personality. You can nudge it a little bit, but you cannot make it go away.

    Sigmund Freud used to talk about having a wild horse inside us, but I think the elephant is a better metaphor. I also suggest that when executives become the king or the queen of the castle, they need to create an environment where people will have a healthy disrespect for the boss. There should be an open give and take, with no penalties for venturing a different opinion. These people can raise difficult issues in a joking way. For example, when I go to Russia to work with senior executives, I often take on the role of the wise fool. I may walk in the snow and talk about the meaning of life, and sometimes when the timing is right, I say something that really sets the person thinking.

    The Quest for Authenticity

    Some of them are larger than life. In the past 15 years, have any world-class companies come out of Russia? There are no equivalents to the Japanese companies that emerged after World War II to become some of the best companies in the world. To be sure, some Russian companies, like Gazprom, are big.

    They have a lot of power and resources. But they are extremely bureaucratic organizations run by the industrial— KGB—military complex.

    536 Puzzles and Curious Problems

    That is sad, because Russia has so much talent, and some very visionary, entrepreneurial executives. I really hope that this will change. Russia has always been surrounded by enemies: Iran, Afghanistan, or China. In addition, Russians have for so many centuries experienced incredible hardship.

    Just look at the last world war. And Russia has always relied on autocratic leadership to keep the country together. Many of its citizens still believe in the strongman theory of leadership. This type of group coaching is quite difficult in Russia. You need to be somewhat open and vulnerable in front of other people.

    Other cultures also have difficulty in being more open within a group setting. In some Muslim cultures, for example, it is considered shameful to talk about any matters of private life with outsiders. Whatever difficulties exist, they need to be contained within the family. It may not be easy in the beginning to be a live case study, but people like to tell their stories. They see it as a great opportunity, and they are right. The challenge is to help them open up and trust each other, to create an ambiance of social reciprocity, to take some risks together.

    The leaders in a company are not just the people at the top.

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    But the top people need to take the initiative. I remember talking to Jorma Ollila when he was the CEO at Nokia [he is now the non-executive chairman of both Nokia and Royal Dutch Shell] about the executive leadership workshops there. But are you going to be there the 20th time? And he delivered. Is this all I want — to be the richest person in the graveyard? What can I do to renew myself? During the seminar, they get a better understanding of their leadership style, and how they come across to others.

    It is also a good opportunity to work on their emotional intelligence. They start to become more reflective in action on a day-to-day basis. In the process of giving feedback to each other, they become more effective leaders. They begin to use themselves as an instrument.

    Manfred Kets de Vries

    They listen to the text of what people say and the music — the words and their unspoken meaning. Very often, the feedback from people close to them, like their children, has the greatest effect on them. Because how many chances will you have to change her perception? The seminar takes place in four weeklong sessions over the course of a year. There is a six-month gap before the last session, so that we can assess whether the participants have internalized the things they promised to do.

    This elephant inside you is very large. I am also very pleased with the way they deal with each other. They have courageous conversations with people at work and at home. And they have truly committed to reinventing the way they do things. And since many of them are responsible for thousands of people, what they learn may have a beneficial broader effect. But after a while, they discover that they are not alone in their confusion. They may start out influenced by money, perhaps if they were poor as children.