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Northouse, Leadership: Theory and Practice, Seventh Edition: Instructor Resource

Chapter 12 – Psychodynamic Approach

Questions for Study

1. Explain how the Psychodynamic Approach differs from other leadership theories.

- The Psychodynamic Approach to leadership differs from other types of theories because it focuses in on one of the hardest parts about leadership to understand, human behavior. This theory acknowledges the complexity of decision-making processes and various forms of interaction.
2. Explain what is meant by the Clinical Paradigm.
- The Clinical Paradigm is the framework for applying a psychodynamic lens to better observe organizational processes. Its intent is to show how people and organizations really function.
3. Explain the four basic premises of the Clinical Paradigm.

- The four basic premises of this Paradigm are as follows: 1.) There is rationale behind every human act. 2.) Mental life (feelings, fears, and motives), lies outside of conscious awareness. 3.) The way a person regulates and expresses emotions is central to who that person is. 4.) Human development is a intra- and interpersonal process; we are all products of past experience.

4. What is Freud’s contribution to the Psychodynamic Approach?

- The whole Psychodynamic Approach to leadership had its origins in the early work of Freud and his psychoanalytic theories of human behavior. Because of his beliefs, the perspective implies that every neurotic symptom or act has a deeply rooted, underlying reason.

5. Explain the four streams of research from the Tavistock Institute.

- The four streams of research from the Tavistock Institute are as follows: 1.) Sociotechnical systems, 2.) Industrial Democracy, 3.) Social Systems as a Defense against Anxiety, 4.) Organizational Role Analysis.

6. How did the Menninger Clinic apply the Psychodynamic Approach to the world of work?
- The Menninger Clinic, following an extensive national survey of mental health, provided weeklong seminars for business executives around the country to help leaders understand why followers feel and act the ways that they do.
7. What insights did Zaleznik contribute to our understanding of how the Psychodynamic Approach applies to the workplace?
- Zaleznik developed a new framework for analysis of organizations. He argued that businesspeople, all too often, focus on process and structure and not enough on ideas and emotions.
8. How did Larry Hirschhorn use “applied clinical practice” to study organizational behavior?
- Larry Hirschhorn used this kind of practice to describe organizational consulting interventions that include diagnostic methods and actions based off of a clinical, applied approach. Exploring the network systemically and drawing from personality theory.
9. What are fantasies, projections, and identifications, and how do they express themselves in organizational life?
- Fantasies, projections, and identifications are psychoanalytic conceptualizations. They express themselves in organizational life through the processes of repression, suppression, and idealization.
10. Explain the concept of the inner theater and how it relates to leadership.
- The “inner theater” is a concept of a stage filled with people who have had an influence on our lives. Early experiences with others can play an effect on future thoughts and conversations with people of similar cadence.
11. Explain the following terms: dependency, fight-flight, and pairing.
- Dependency is defined as: belief that the leader or organization can and should offer protection and guidance, similar to that of a parental unit. Fight-flight is defined as the tendency to split the world into groups of friend or foe. Pairing assumption, is defined as the assumption that strength will take place in pairs.
12. What are social defense mechanisms and how do they relate to leadership?
- Social defense mechanisms are ways in which people act out and engage in regressive social defenses to transform and neutralize strong tensions. These relate to leadership because they come about as a result of poor leadership in a certain area, such as relationship management or a stressful work environment.
13. What are mirroring and idealizing, and how do they relate to leadership?
- Mirroring is the tendency to mimic the ways/manner in which others engage in processes. Idealizing is similar to mirroring in that it has to do with behavior and what we perceive to be “correct”. These both relate to leadership because they are underlying processes that create a dynamic relationship between leader and follower.
14. Under what circumstances do followers identify with the aggressor?
- Confronted by a superior force, some people at times feel compelled to become like the superior force, to avoid any possible aggression.
15. Describe Freud’s definition of narcissism and how it affects leadership.
- Narcissism is defined as a sum of behaviors that range from a normal self-interest to a pathological self-absorption. This effects leadership because those under the influence of narcissism are convinced of the righteousness of their cause, thus being able to “win over” others as well.
16. Explain the group coaching method for applying the psychodynamic principles to leadership development.

- The group coaching method for the psychodynamic principles, teaches that anyone wanting to create or manage an effective organization needs to understand the complexity of why leaders do the things they do and make choices as they do. This is better done in groups of followers and leaders.

17. What are strengths of the Psychodynamic Approach?
- Strengths of this approach to leadership are that it addresses the undercurrents of organizational life through issues such as interpersonal communication, group processes, social defenses, and organization-wide neurosis. This approach involves an in-depth investigation of a single person, group, event, or community. Emphasizes connection between leader and follower.
18. What are criticisms of the Psychodynamic Approach?
- Criticisms of this approach are that it focuses on dysfunction and is premised on abnormal behavior. Another criticism is that the focus is on improvement of self-awareness in order to find better ways to relate and behave. The approach is also criticized for situation intervention at the individual level.

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