Manfred Kets de Vries: Biography highlights

A clinical professor of leadership development, Manfred Kets de Vries combines knowledge of management and economics with expertise in psychoanalysis.

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Nobel Prize Winners
Thinkers50 Speakers

Full biography of Manfred Kets de Vries

Manfred Kets de Vries’ background

Manfred’s methods can be applied to a wide range of factors affecting companies, which is reflected in his diverse range of specific interests. These include entrepreneurialism, executive stress, family business dynamics, succession decision making, team building, cultural factors influencing business, mentoring and training, and corporate structural changes. Director of The Challenge of Leadership: Developing Your Emotional Intelligence at INSEAD, Kets de Vries is a world-renowned authority who has written and edited several seminal books relating to business psychology and has contributed to numerous prestigious publications.

Drawing on personal experience and innate insight, Manfred Kets de Vries’ inspirational work makes it clear why he is a world-leading expert in the psychology of business.

A client portfolio including Shell, Goldman Sachs, Nokia, Unilever, Standard Bank of South Africa and Heineken demonstrates the strength of Kets de Vries reputation. His approach to leadership and management differs to that of many other experts within the field as he utilises his extensive knowledge of psychology in order to tailor and support his suggestions.

Kets de Vries qualifications speak for themselves. At Harvard Business School, he achieved his Master of Business Administration (MBA), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and completed the International Tax Program (ITP). He has an Econ. Drs. from the University of Amsterdam and is a member of the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society and the International Psychoanalytic Association.

This background allows Kets de Vries to view the relationships between business management, psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Understanding people is key to understanding motivation, leadership, team dynamics and career progression. Knowing what inspires and what intimidates teams and individuals allows Kets de Vries to help each business overcome hurdles, motivate employees and change their approach and structure for the better.

Kets de Vries expertise has seen him become a successful author and business coach, but he has spent much of his career in academia, working as a professor at a number of universities. He is now predominantly involved with INSEAD, one of the worlds leading graduate business schools. He has been awarded the organisations Distinguished Teacher Award five times and is Director of their Global Leadership Center. Holding the Raoul de Vitry d’Avaucourt Chair of Leadership Development, Kets de Vries directs INSEADs Challenge of Leadership: Developing Your Emotional Intelligence and Consulting and Coaching for Change programs.

Specialist research areas include: Effective leadership, organisational stress, career dynamics, entrepreneurship, family business, cross-cultural management, organisational transformation and change, the darker side of leadership, high performance teams and high performance organisations, leadership derailment and its prevention, relationships between leadership, corporate culture and strategic decision-making, entrepreneurial leadership, leadership and the career life cycle, creating executive role constellations and the psychodynamics of leadership transition.

He regularly writes for a number of magazines and has featured in Business Week, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune and the International Herald Tribune. His numerous case studies and contribution of over 300 scientific papers have been well received within the industry and have been published in a number of prestigious publications.

Awards, Accolades, Achievements, Honours

  • Officer in the Order of Oranje Nassau The Netherlands
  • Fellow – Academy of Management
  • Raoul de Vitry d’Avaucourt Chaired Professor of Leadership Development INSEAD
  • Founder and Director – INSEAD Global Leadership Centre
  • Founding member – International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations
  • Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to leadership research and development – International Leadership Association (ILA)
  • Five-time recipient of INSEAD Distinguished Teacher Award
  • Member of seventeen editorial boards
  • Former professorships at Harvard Business School, McGill University and Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales
  • One of the worlds top fifty management thinkers The Economist/The Financial Times/Le Capital/ Wirtschaftswoche
  • One of the worlds leading leadership thinkers – The Economist/The Financial Times/Le Capital/ Wirtschaftswoche
  • One of the most influential contributors to human resource management – The Economist/The Financial Times/Le Capital/ Wirtschaftswoche
  • Honorary Doctorate – Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) (2012)

Current/Past Roles and Positions

  • Internationally renowned leadership expert
  • Organisational design/transformation and human resources management consultant to companies all over the globe
  • Combines an in depth knowledge of economics, management and psychoanalysis
  • Raoul de Vitry d’Avaucourt Chair of Leadership Development at INSEAD
  • Director of the Global Leadership Centre, INSEAD
  • Author, lecturer and speaker

Speaking Style

Able to readily engage audiences of all sizes, Manfred Kets de Vries uses examples of his own work in order to provide comprehensive levels of advice and information in an accessible and fun way. As a speaker he is known for his charisma as well as for his sense of humour – not surprisingly his workshops are incredibly successful and popular.



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1/2 videos
Davos 2009 - IdeasLab - Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries
Davos 2009 - IdeasLab - Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries
Manfred Kets de Vries on What Defines Success in the C-Suite
Manfred Kets de Vries on What Defines Success in the C-Suite
Ashridge Centre for Coaching

Testimonial for The Hedgehog Effect: The Secrets of Building High Performance Teams: 'Erudite, entertaining, witty, and nevertheless immensely practical and practicable'

Erik de Haan
HR Zone

Testimonial for The Hedgehog Effect: The Secrets of Building High Performance Teams: 'A really compelling introduction to anyone wishing to know more about group psychodynamic.'

University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry

Testimonial for Reflections on Groups and Organizations: 'A splendid and pragmatic book illuminating how concealed individual and group dynamics impact business plans, decisions, and implementation. In his jargon-free and lucid style, Kets de Vries focuses on group dynamics as they play out and compromise leadership behavior and organizational change. He then details how leaders at all levels of the organization can identify and address these covert issues in the service of developing an authentizotic organization healthy, nimble, robust, and profitable. An invaluable approach to how they and their organizations can succeed in todays highly competitive and tumultuous business world.'

Howard E. Book
Adjunct Associate Professor
People Management

Testimonial for The Hedgehog Effect: The Secrets of Building High Performance Teams: 'A useful guide to unconscious factors in group leadership coaching'

Property Developer

Testimonial for Reflections on Groups and Organizations: 'Manfreds' uncanny insight into the murky unconscious processes affecting the psyche of leaders, coupled with his anecdotal writing style, makes this a very potent book for individuals seeking self improvement or those wishing to bring about organizational change.'

Robert Geneid

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