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Mary Meaney

Mary Meaney

7th Jun 2017

Mary Meaney is the Head of the Design and Innovation team at the Irish Management Institute. 

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Key Insights From IMI Leadership and Beyond Masterclass with Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

In the course of this extensive IMI Masterclass series in Cork and Dublin, Manfred considered leadership from several perspectives. At its heart, he believes leadership to be about human behaviour – what we do, how we do it and why we do it. Central to his message is that to be a leader is to be human and to be an effective leader necessitates understanding ourselves and what drives us.

What do we need to do as leaders? (Picture source)

What we need to do as leaders

  •  We need to be realistic rather than idealistic in terms of what we expect from leadership. This means watching the actions of leaders not just what they say, accepting that leaders sometimes have to do unpleasant things to get good results and that their actions and behaviour should fit their operating reality. Manfred noted that in regard to leadership past leadership behaviour is very predictive of future behaviour.
  • The importance of developing reflective leaders. In order to understand others, we should start by understanding ourselves. Equally before asking others to change we should seek to change ourselves first. We do this by asking ourselves fundamental questions related to who we are and where we want to go. Manfred suggested we jump forward and consider what we would like to be written in our epitaph or eulogy – how would we want to be described? – and use this to review our values and how we want to lead our lives. This exercise also recognises that in understanding and assessing ourselves we cannot separate our public (professional) life and private life.  In fact, Manfred in his programmes does a 720 assessment on the leaders in the room – a 360 at work and a 360 at home.
  • Be cognisant that how we as leaders interact with others is partially define by the attachment orientation, we developed in childhood (secure attachment, anxious attachment or avoidant (dismissive/ fearful) attachment)

Impact of human behaviour

  • Manfred uses the Clinical Paradigm framework to explore the subconscious forces underlying human behaviour. In order to understand why leaders and followers behave as they do we need to understand and unlock these forces. So, for example, an apparently irrational action can have, if we dig deeper into our unconscious, a logical explanation.
  • To move from a 2D view of the world to a 3D view, it is vital to build our emotional intelligence (Knowing our emotions; managing our emotions; recognising emotions in others and managing emotions in others). Listen with your third ear – use yourself as an instrument by developing your EI.

Leadership is the management of dilemmas/ paradoxes

  • Continuing on the theme of subconscious forces and self-awareness, Manfred discussed what drives us to get out of the bed in the morning (fear of meaninglessness, fear of isolation and loneliness and fear of not being in control or not having freedom (independence)
  • When acting beware of conscious versus unconscious resolution – what we consciously commit to can be sabotaged again and again by an unconscious belief.  We need to be aware of the unconscious part in order to change.
  • Leadership incompetence is driven by four reasons (unwillingness to exert authority; bullying behaviour; micromanagement; narcissistic behaviour)
  • The final test of the leader is how well his or her successor does. Great companies are six times more likely to have a successor in place.

Are leaders born or made?

Individuals acquire their leadership style as a result of genetics; significant life experience; the imprint of other executive’s example; life experience and formal development/coaching.

  • Leadership 101: The role of the (silverback) leader is to provide direction; provide protection; provide order.
  • Leadership 201: The role of the (Authentizotic) leader is to provide focus/ vision/ hope; build teams (motivate/inspire others); execute (decisiveness/courage, judgement) and model integrity/trust (walking the talk). Authentizotic leaders create organisations people really want to work in. These organisations are listening, inclusive (we not me), supportive but
    stretching, model leadership and behaviours by example, etc.
  • Be cognisant of the importance of Value Driven Leadership – values can contribute to bringing people in different directions. Values have a central place in Authentizotic organisations and leadership.

Leadership style & attitudes

  • Consider your leadership style versus the Leadership Archetype profiles (The strategist: leadership as a game of chess; The change-catalyst: leadership as a turnaround activity; The transactor: leadership as deal making; The Builder: leadership as an entrepreneurial activity; The Innovator: leadership as creative idea generation; The processor: leadership as an exercise in efficiency; The coach: leadership as a form of people development; The Communicator: leadership as stage management)
  •  The winning attitudes to look for in leaders (Energy: a can-do attitude and passion; Energise: energise people around a common goal; Edge: if something cannot be accomplished, try a creative alternative; Execution) or (Smart, Work hard, Ambitious, Nice)
  • Remember leadership is a team sport.

Dreams and happiness  

  • A dream that hasn’t been interpreted is like a letter that hasn’t been opened!
  • Happiness is influenced by genetics (50%); life circumstances (10%) and intentional activities (conscious framing (40%)
  •  And finally, Manfred’s prescription for happiness – Maintain a supportive network of family members and friends; Manage your envy; Try expressing gratitude and Practice forgiveness.




Mary Meaney is the Head of the Design and Innovation team at the Irish Management Institute.  She has a background in programme design in the telecoms, IT and education sector. The Design and Innovation team is responsible for programme design of tailored and short, Diploma and Masters’ programmes. This involves working closely with clients, Associate faculty and IMI teams to deliver world-class, inspiring and fit-for-purpose learning and development programmes.

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