Manfred Kets de Vries Transcript

Manfred Kets de Vries is The Distinguished Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at INSEAD, one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools. He has received INSEAD’s distinguished teacher award five times.

Manfred is also the author of 52 books including The CEO Whisperer, Mindful Leadership Coaching, and Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership. And he is a consultant on organizational design, transformation, and strategic human resource management to leading companies all over the world.

From a young age Manfred was interested in psychology and human behavior, he was intrigued with trying to figure out why people act in certain ways. In college he studied economics and organizational behavior. Throughout his career he has focused on the intersection of these two areas and eventually he was appointed as the Global Leadership Director at INSEAD and he started a program specifically for leaders where 21 executives come together and Manfred creates what he calls tipping points for them to teach them how to make decisions in more humane and effective ways.

There is a Gallup poll that shows that 85% of employees worldwide don’t feel engaged at work. And as Manfred says, we only have one life to live so we should be making the best out of it. So he enjoys working with leaders because they have such a profound effect on the lives of their employees.

You can watch the video of our full conversation below or just listen to the audio version as a podcast. If you want more content like this you can subscribe to my Youtube channel.

The 8 Archetypes Of Leadership
Back in 2013 Manfred wrote an article for HBR on what he calls the 8 archetypes of leadership. These are recurring patterns of behavior that Manfred says influence a leader’s effectiveness inside of an organization.

As Manfred says in his article “I think of these patterns as leadership “archetypes,” reflecting the various roles executives can play in organizations and it is a lack of fit between a leader’s archetype and the context in which he or she operates is a main cause of team and organizational dysfunctionality and executive failure.”

The eight most common archetypes are:

1. The strategist: Leadership as a game of chess. These people are good at dealing with developments in the organization’s environment. They provide vision, strategic direction and outside-the-box thinking to create new organizational forms and generate future growth.

2. The change-catalyst: Leadership as a turnaround activity. These leaders like messy situations that they can come in and fix. They are good at implementing organizational change. But when things are good they tend to get bored.

3. The transactor: Leadership as deal making. These leaders thrive on negotiations. They are skilled at identifying and tackling new opportunities. They are great dealmakers.

4. The builder: Leadership as an entrepreneurial activity. Leaders in this category dream of creating something and they have the talent and determination to make their dream come true.

5. The innovator: Leadership as creative idea generation. Leaders in this category focus on the new. They possess a great capacity to solve extremely difficult problems.

6. The processor: Leadership as an exercise in efficiency. These executives like organizations to be smoothly running, well-oiled machines. They are very effective at setting up the structures and systems needed to support an organization’s objectives.

7. The coach: Leadership as a form of people development. These executives know how to get the best out of people, thus creating high performance cultures.

8. The communicator: Leadership as stage management. These executives are great influencers, and have a considerable impact on their surroundings.

It is important to know which type of leader you are, as well as what archetypes your peers and team members fall into in order to create the most effective and cohesive teams.

Can you change your archetype?
Over the course of your career as a leader you may be interested in changing your archetype. Manfred says it is possible, but it’s not easy. Instead of trying to change yourself, you may consider surrounding yourself with people who fall into the archetypes that you need for what you are currently facing. Embrace the traits you have, and allow other people to fill in the gaps where you are lacking.

And there may come a time, Manfred believes, when it may be time to resign from that position and go elsewhere. Maybe it is time for you to do something different. Years ago Manfred was speaking to a group of around 200 executives and he asked them how long is the productive life of a CEO and they said seven years, plus or minus two years. After that it’s time to move onto something else.

What should you do if you are placed in a position that doesn’t match your archetype?
There may be times when you feel you are being put in positions that don’t match up with your archetype and at that point Manfred says you have a decision to make. We are no longer living in times when you stick at a specific job at one company for decades. So you have to figure out what gives you energy and what brings you joy.

Manfred suggests keeping a diary for a few weeks to keep track of the periods of time that you feel positive energy and joy as well as situations that impact you negatively. That way you can look back and see what things are important to you, what things you should seek out and what situations you want to avoid. Looking back on that log of activity you can make a decision as to whether it is worth it to stay in that position or not.

Keeping archetypes in mind when you build your team
It may not be possible to have each of the eight archetypes represented on every team you work with, but it is good to keep these archetypes in mind as each one has a role to play in an effective team.

Manfred gave an example of an investment bank that he worked with in the past. They had a group of seven people who covered almost every archetype except they didn’t have anyone who was good at coaching.

As Manfred shares, “they were not good in coaching, they were too busy with strategy, deal making and also having the things on time, all those kinds of things. So because of that, they decided we have to do something about it. And we have to hire someone who takes that role, because it will be growing very fast, and we don’t pay any attention to that kind of thing. And we’re not very good at it either, given our personality.”

It is important to know which category you fall into and to be able to identify what’s missing. It’s not an exact science, and what combination of archetypes you need depends on the industry that you are in, but it is definitely something you should be aware of.

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