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What we should have done

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the rise of autocratic and narcissistic leaders at the very time when we need them the least.

Faced with the crisis, the notion of “knowing yourself” hasn’t really found its voice. According to Manfred Kets de Vries, most leaders are strangers to themselves. And, once they’ve reached the top, they can only see as far as the end of their own nose, losing all sense of purpose (starting with themselves). Personal ambition leaves them very alone. 

But the pace of change is so dizzyingly fast that no one can master everything. Now it really is time to drop the myth of the hero and to begin understanding leadership as a team sport… which implies humility and self-awareness. But in a crisis like today’s, people look for heroes and messiahs, which only serves to perpetuate narcissism and sycophantic behaviors. 

The pandemic must be a turning point. To transform it into a force for good, you have to give your people a sense of purpose. This includes an aim: a collective, forward-looking goal, a sense of belonging, a competence (“what we’re good at”), control (“people like to have a voice”), and fulfillment (“surpassing yourself”). And this means you have to know yourself to start off with. 

To go further

“The Leadership Mystique”

with Manfred Kets de Vries and Graham Ward (Insead Knowledge, 2020). 

Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.