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What happened to the philosopher-king: the leader's addiction to power

Author: Kets de Vries, Manfred F. R. INSEAD Area: Organisational BehaviourIn: Journal of Management Studies, vol. 28, no. 4, July 1991 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 339-351.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask us for this itemAbstract: This article postulates the existence of a number of conscious and unconscious forces which make leaders reluctant to relinquish power. It is suggested that a major reason for the unwillingness to let go is the transferential effects of leadership. Both mirroring and idealising transference reactions are discussed. In addition, there is the ageing factor which may contribute to the addictiveness of power, since ageing can evoke a strong need for compensatory strivings. The talionic principle, meaning in this case, the conscious or unconscious fear that the loss of power will be followed by some form of retaliation for previous acts, may be another factor contributing to power's addictiveness. In this context the role of envy is emphasized. Finally, the existence of a "fear of nothingness" is postulated, that is, a form of anxiety which leads to a need to defeat death by leaving some kind of legacy. It is suggested that holding onto power is linked to the fear that this legacy may be destroyed
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This article postulates the existence of a number of conscious and unconscious forces which make leaders reluctant to relinquish power. It is suggested that a major reason for the unwillingness to let go is the transferential effects of leadership. Both mirroring and idealising transference reactions are discussed. In addition, there is the ageing factor which may contribute to the addictiveness of power, since ageing can evoke a strong need for compensatory strivings. The talionic principle, meaning in this case, the conscious or unconscious fear that the loss of power will be followed by some form of retaliation for previous acts, may be another factor contributing to power's addictiveness. In this context the role of envy is emphasized. Finally, the existence of a "fear of nothingness" is postulated, that is, a form of anxiety which leads to a need to defeat death by leaving some kind of legacy. It is suggested that holding onto power is linked to the fear that this legacy may be destroyed

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