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