The Leadership Mystique, Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise by Manfred Kets De Vries is a workbook collection of academic lectures with real world application. De Vires writing is not a simple “how to” but rather a real insight and reflection into the ever evolving subject of leadership. He begins with defining what leadership is and what it does. Then he delves into a series of lectures highlighting a series of real world leadership issues: EI (emotional intelligence), change resistance, leadership failure, life-draining organizational structure, toxic leadership styles, leadership competency, global leadership demands, leadership styles, succession planning, and leadership development.
De Vries begins with looking at the etymological look at the word: leadership. He defines a leader as: “one who shows fellow travelers the way by walking ahead.” (De Vries, 2). Throughout the book De Vries does just that, he takes the reader on a journey of who, what, where, when, and how concerning the leader and his or her job of leading. The workbook style learning applications throughout the book are a wonder mechanism to explain and apply the various leadership lessons.
The perspective that I noticed throughout was the various tensions. From personalities to disorders, there was an underlying tension given or alluded to each tension. In Emotional Intelligence there is a tension between the right and left brain. The Mussel Syndrome there is resistance to change. In leadership failure there is the dysfunctional patterns of avoidance, power play, transference, falsehood, and pride in the form of narcissism. In the Dilbert phenom there is the tension of value verses devaluation of human capital. Rot at the top deals with tension resulting in the effects of leadership styles and personalities. Characteristics of effective leadership deals with the internal tension of leaders, inner theater verses leadership style verses competencies, and how these result in whole leader. Global leadership deals with tensions resulting from the complexities of a global and connected world, wheel of culture. Leadership roles demonstrates tension through the various differences between leadership and management. Leadership succession deals with the tensions and struggles of the leadership life cycle. Last is leadership development, it is here where the tension of growth comes to light because there is no growth without struggle.
The common thread for me is that leadership is not any easy paved road. Rather, it is a narrow path that is not very worn or well trod. It is not for the faint of heart or the weary traveler, but rather for the courageous. It is less about pedigree, perfect personality, well connected, highly educated individuals and more about the adventurous soul that believes there is a better way. One that is willing to fight with oneself through self reflection and evaluation. One who is tenacious in their pursuit of the mission. One who is willing to take the road less traveled. The leadership journey is filled with tension within and without, but it is the successful management of internal and external challenges that forms the leader and makes him or her suitable as the ultimate guide for others to follow.