Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Deep, Interior Leadership

Written by: on October 14, 2015

Deep, Interior Leadership

Thanks to the help of Manfred Kets de Vries, I have been set free in my true leadership identity. With de Vries semi-clinical, psychoanalytical angle on leadership and the powerful tools and diagnostics provided in “Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise,” I can now self-identify as a cyclothymic, passive-aggressive, masochistic, sadistic, antisocial, schizoid, avoidant, borderline, schizotypical, depressive, dependent, histrionic, obsessive-compulsive, paranoid, narcissistic leader who splits, projects, undoes, denies, displaces, regresses, represses, isolates, reacts, converts, suppresses, rationalizes, alturizes, and humorfies all conflict to strive for the top with a whatever-it-takes mentality to appear to be the bullet-proof leader our world needs me to be.[1] If knowing is half the battle in leadership identity, I am now half way there!

All joking aside, I found Vries angle on leadership to be truly fresh and needed. There are mass volumes of leadership resources in our culture that could be considered for leadership junkies who strive to apply all the veneer of great leadership. Based on a truly how-to-mentality that skims over the deep interior work that is needed in the head of the leader. And while the heart, strength, and soul of a leader gets plenty of play in the majority of leadership content available in our more pop-leadership culture, de Vries emphasis on understanding the good, bad, and ugly of the inter-weaving of our whole lives (past, present, future/heart, soul, strength, mind) is powerful and potentially highly transformational.

The closest touch I have had to this angle or level of leadership analysis has been through the Church Planters Assessment Center. In the assessment center I went through when I was in process of planting my first church, I had to fill out the Minnesota Multi-phasic Inventory (MMPI). The MMPI was a 600+ question inventory that asked some very bizarre questions along what I would have to now call some psychoanalytical scale. Some of the questions were like, “Do you ever scan a room for objects you could impale yourself with?” Or, “Do you ever scan a room for objects you could impale others with?” followed by questions like, “Do you like cats?” These were not exact questions, but the real ones were similarly bizarre and dark (especially the ones about cats).

I remember all of us being assessed and that assessment center where rather weirded-out by the inventory until it was explained that the MMPI is used to check the psychological health of an individual and make sure she/he fits in the healthy social range before entering the work of church planting because of the extreme stress and pressure that church planters face. Overtime, that explanation has made great sense as I have seen what church planting can do to planters, their spouses and families, and those who become a part of the early days of planting.

In chapter six entitled, The Rot at the Top, I think de Vries captures the greatest threat to leadership and especially greatest threat of delusional leadership. Vries writes, “The fantasies or scripts that make up a person’s interior world – the stereotyped well-rehearsed, constantly repeated ways of behaving and acting that determine an individual’s particular cognitive and affective map – are essential to understanding that person.”[2]

Too many times in our pop-leadership culture, the true diligence needed to recruit, equip, and empower or even just follow whole, healthy leaders is not prioritized or even on the radar. At best, we talk of character and integrity but usually in a oversimplified, cookbook fashion that works on the veneer versus hitting the deep, interior tissue.

It seems leadership in our culture is so vulnerable to chase what de Vries calls the four P’s of power, perks, podium, and pay, that we are blind to the fractures, breaks, and necessary repairs needed to our interior as the exterior chase dominates.[3] Not only does this lead to the rot of the leader but to the ruining of an entire organization through the decay of its culture.

Reading “Leadership Mystique” truly peaked my interest and raised awareness of the deep void of leadership focus and resources about the interwoven deep interior of a leader. As I have reflected over the week on this it seems the majority of the pop-leadership culture is built on leadership prowess without any balance or development of leadership psyche. I wonder what would have to change to tip the scales to really bring some weight to the psychoanalytical dimension of leadership? How could a leaders deep interior really be acknowledged and developed? What would be the broader and applicable tools and methods that could actually help leaders, organizations, and our culture bring the reality that leadership is a human behavior enterprise with human beings with a broken human condition attempting live towards an incredible human capacity? With such resources as Leadership Mystique, there is at least a glimmer of hope for the deep, interior leadership needed in our culture.

[1] Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise, 2nd ed. (Harlow, England.: FT Press, 2009), 12-16.

[2] Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise, 2nd ed. (Harlow, England.: FT Press, 2009), 108.

[3] Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise, 2nd ed. (Harlow, England.: FT Press, 2009), 134.


About the Author

Phillip Struckmeyer

5 responses to “Deep, Interior Leadership”

  1. Dave Young says:

    Phil, I appreciate how you narrowed it down to leaders needing to do the “deep interior work”, how they run the risk of ‘self deception’ and how you rightly asked the key question “How could a leader’s deep interior really be acknowledged and developed?” My reaction is apart from Christ I’m not sure I’d want to be that deeply reflective. I agree leaders need to do this but what if they find mechanisms that allow them to understand themselves and thrive based on ideology that fundamentally wrong. I guess everyone who knows themselves deeply and doesn’t likewise rely on Jesus is actually self-deceived?!?

  2. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Dave, I have always wondered about the how “love your neighbor as yourself.” I can’t conclude good exegesis concludes this, but there is something in practical wisdom that says how we love ourselves will be how we love our neighbor. If we can’t figure ourselves out, how are we going to have the capacity to understand others. Just a thought related to the deep interior:).

  3. Nick Martineau says:

    Thanks Phil…your post made me think about Brene Browns work based around shame and vulnerability. It’s not a leadership book and would never be able to sell if pitched that way but i’ve thought it to be a really good read for leaders. Your quote, “the majority of the pop-leadership culture is built on leadership prowess without any balance or development of leadership psyche” is a big part of the problem but I’m with you, I’m hopeful it is swinging back the other way.

  4. Travis Biglow says:

    Phil, great take on this reading. I agree with you about the Leadership psyche being studied. And not like your questioning about the impaling anyone! lol Like you i am a church planter but it was just my own so far and it really can take its toll on you when look out at other leaders and they just get a church already handed to them. I was just looking up one of my collegues from Azusa Pacific and found out he was just apointed pastor to an old pretigious church in Pasadena. He had formly been the appointed pastor of another well to do church. Looking from a church planters perspective that looks good to me about now. But i have to do what i have to do for the time being. And we have to move with the Lord! Blessings!

  5. Mary Pandiani says:

    First, can I just say thank you for making me laugh out loud (after a long tiring day)?! What you remember as the questions for the MMPI reminded me of how strange our world is that in order to find out about ourselves, we have to ask about cats and impalation (is that a word?). When I was dating my late husband, he also had to take the MMPI. When he got the results back, he wouldn’t let me see them. It wasn’t that he was a psycho (at least I never saw that tendency after we married), but he felt like it would give me information that would be better left to discover, rather than named. Perhaps he was nervous, but I actually think he was onto something. We are so concerned with knowing ourselves that we forget the long hard work of simply being present to ourselves and one another.
    That may sound like I don’t believe we should know each other. Quite the contrary. But this work of knowing ourselves requires more than the “veneer” that you suggest happens in leadership. Using your metaphor of the cookbook, this work of looking at our deep interior requires a simmering crock pot experience, versus a fast food frenzy of discovering.
    Sure appreciate how you capture the essence of Devries’ work.

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