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Manfred Kets de Vries

Manfred Kets de Vries

Best known for:

Manfred Kets de Vries is best known for being an author, leadership and the psychodynamics of individual and organizational change.


Manfred Kets de Vries bears knowledge and experience of economics, management and psychoanalysis in which he explores the interface between management theory, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, executive coaching and evolutionary psychology.


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 organisational “machine” performs. What differentiates truly great organisations, 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 organisational 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 organisational 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 organisational change. Drawing from deep knowledge and expertise gained over decades of working with C-suite executives, his entertaining and informative presentations show that winning organisations 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 organisations, places of work where people feel at their best. He further explains that if we are to understand the dynamics of leadership, teams, and organisational culture, we must be willing to go beyond the directly observable. Leaders must have “night vision,” the ability to help individuals and organisations 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 behaviour of individuals and teams. It’s in authentizotic organisations 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 customising 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 organisations 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 organisations and their leaders more effective and more humane. To further enable this orientation to individual and organisational 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 centre 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 organisational 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 organisational behaviour.

Publications include:

  • The Leadership Mystique 2001
  • The Leader on the Couch 2006
  • The Hedgehog Effect 2011
  • Mindful Leadership Coaching 2018
  • Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership 2018

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