Summary of The Leader on the Couch

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  • Overview


When Manfred Kets de Vries uses stories – from his own experience, history or Zen parables – to show how you can use psychology to understand the workplace, his points are clear and seem immediately applicable. Admittedly, his discussion of the theories that frame and guide his work vary from instructive to somewhat obscure, and his classifications of personality and organizational types may seem arbitrary, but when he explains the processes involved in change, he is realistic and humane. Philosophically or psychologically inclined readers may really want a more thorough explanation of de Vries' concepts, such as how unconscious structures interact with cultural ones. Those who take a less theoretical approach may not be as intrigued. getAbstract thinks that readers who exert some conscious patience will find the author's core points about the role of the unconscious in the business world insightful and useful.

About the Author

Manfred Kets de Vries is director of a global leadership center. He has published more than 20 books and 200 articles.



“The Clinical Paradigm”

People often try to improve organizational function by smoothing over surfaces. They address the rational aspects of business but they ignore the unconscious roots of problems. Sometimes they don’t even admit they exist. The “clinical paradigm” bridges the rational functions, suited for the empirical world, and the ambiguous complexities of the human mind. It applies the psychoanalytical insights of Sigmund Freud to organizations, which, like the human beings within them, have subconscious drives. The paradigm has four premises:

  1. You can explain all of human behavior, even when it seems irrational.
  2. Much human mental activity happens “outside of conscious awareness.”
  3. How people handle and express emotion is central to who they are.
  4. “Human development is an inter- and intrapersonal process.”

The clinical paradigm reveals the “core conflictual relationship themes” that you will encounter in life. Applying it enables you to revise those patterns so you can function better.

Leaders Who Love (Themselves) Too Much

In classical myth, Narcissus was a beautiful...

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