Leaders’ Identity Work

May 30th, 20122 Comments

Title: The Unwanted Self: Projective Identification in Leaders‘ Identity Work
Author: Gianpiero Petriglieri and Mark Stein

Abstract: This paper employs a psychodynamic perspective to examine the development and maintenance of a leader‘s identity, building on the premise that such identity work involves both conscious and unconscious processes. We focus on the latter by suggesting that those in coveted leadership roles may engage in projective identification to shape and sustain an identity befitting those roles. Projective identification is the unconscious projection of unwanted aspects of one‘s self into others, leading to the bolstering of a conscious self-view concordant with one‘s role requirements. Recipients of a leader‘s projections may manage these by projecting them back into the leader or into third parties, which may lead to ongoing conflict and the creation of a toxic culture. We use examples from the Gucci family business to illustrate this process.

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  1. What does psychoanalysis have to do with it? | Center for the Study of Organizational Change

    […] visions. They are an integral part of individual identity (For an example see Driver, 2010 or Petriglieri & Stein, 2012), self-esteem, and socialization. Many people find that the organizations that they belong to are a […]

  2. What Gatsby Tells Us About Leadership « Center for the Study of Organizational Change

    […] to jettison old identities is a theme that my co-author Gianpiero Petriglieri and I explored in a paper we published last year. In our paper we develop the concept of ‘the unwanted self’, focusing on the post-war Gucci […]