Kets de Vries Fables
Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries happens to be one of the worlds “leading thinkers on leadership, coaching, and the application of clinical psychology to individual and organizational change” and his recent collection Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership is both highly readable and easily applicable. In fact, most of the chapters were “originally written as mini-articles (blogs) for the Harvard Business Review and INSEAD Knowledge,” whose initial audience read them with the intent of putting the wisdom shortly into practice. Each chapter includes nuggets of practical advice, written in an impressive blend of academic, yet conversational prose. Additionally, each chapter concludes with a brief anecdote providing additional color and the opportunity for further reflection regarding the theme that was discussed throughout the chapter. These anecdotes reminded me of the wisdom found in Aesop’s Fables, as Kets de Vries proves he is both an educator and a storyteller.
Speaking of storytelling, Kets’ de Vries many chapters on power, narcissism, dictators and “Trumpmania” were quote enlightening, however, the chapter that most struck me was chapter 11 “A Tale of Two Organizations: Creating Best Places to Work.” Kets de Vries names these best place organizations, “authentizotic,” a name he created by combining Greek terms that refer to the organizations vitality to the life of the worker, as well as how true the work is to the workers value system. Yet before an organization can reach this “authentizotic” point, many things must first be done, the first is to develop trust, and one of the ways Kets de Vries suggests doing this is through the act of testimony.
Now, he does not use the term testimony, instead he uses the term narration, however the definition has more than a hint of liturgical application. “Being able to tell our personal story to a group of people who listen in a respectful manner has a strong emotional impact . . . provides the opportunity to experience and transform deeply troubling or repetitive life themes, helping us to better understand why . . . issues keep holding us back.” The opportunity to intimately share with colleagues in a trusting and supportive space forms a bond and unifies the work force. “Furthermore, while listening to other people’s life stories, we may realize that we are not alone . . . we may come to understand that others, too struggle. . . in the process of giving each other mutual support, all the participants become part of a real, supportive community.”
Kets de Vries here beautifully describes the power in sharing our stories. As a Presbyterian, far too often we do not share our faith stories. For better or worse, our tradition has encouraged a majority of us to worship more with our mind than our heart, and certainly more with our mind than our mouths. The moniker “frozen chosen” is both poignant and pathetic. However, many church leaders are encouraging congregations to challenge that history and invite public testimony into the worship space. Diana Butler Bass, Lillian Daniel, and Jim Antal all write poetically about the beauty and power of experiencing another individual’s faith story during worship; how they were moved, how they were challenged, and how that emotional touchpoint, inspired them to deeper faith and more passionate prayer.
I was recently reminded that the reformed liturgy is not about the clergy or space, but is really the work of the people, coming together to share, imagine, inspire and praise. Can we create “authentizotic” worship spaces? What would need to change? What would they look like? And if that was somehow created, how would our worship experience be different?
 Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership: Leadership Pathology in Everyday Life, (Cham, Switzerland: Palmgrave Macmillan, 2019), vii.
 Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 14.
 Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 25.
 Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 81.
 Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 83.
 Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 83-85.
 Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 85.
 Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 85.
 Diana Butler Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us, (New York: Harper One, 2007), 129.
 “Testimony Worship Guidelines,” Lillian Daniel, accessed October 23, 2019, http://www.lilliandaniel.com/books.html.
 Jim Antal, Climate Church, Climate World: How People of Faith Must Work for Change, (Lanham: Rowan & Littlefield, 2018), 105.
4 responses to “Kets de Vries Fables”
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1. Great post
2. I think this is the 1st time that I’ve seen a Presbyterian write ”frozen chosen” so my life is complete.
3. I think you make a great point on sharing. As the online world is more exposed as fake offline connections of realness will become even more important.
Jacob, I also enjoyed that chapter as well. Thank you for being willing to be unfrozen in your ministry! I am excited to see how you will help your denomination revive.
I love your connection with narration, telling one’s story, and testimony. You are right, testimony is a work of the people rejoicing together in what God has done for them personally. How would you like this to play out in your current Presbyterian assignment? How could this expression enrich Presbyterian worship and practice?
Very good connection of the “authentizotic” workplace to the worship space, Jacob. It’s interesting how various traditions focus on a singular aspect of the human rather than the holistic nature of who we are. Your tradition the mind, my tradition the heart/emotion. What if our practices aligned to addressing and integrating the whole person in worship? That would be “authentizotic” indeed!