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The Psychodynamic Approach

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Skills Theory

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Human Skills in the Psychodynamic Theory

Leader-Follower interactions are a big part of the psychodynamic approach. The psychodynamic approach gives no styles of followers that better suit styles of leaders, but states that the response of subordinates to the actions of leaders is predictable to some extent. A connection can be made to the skills approach because the predicting and fine tuning of actions to resonate best with followers can be considered a human skill. Human skills in Katz’s leadership model are skills with working with people. A leader choosing his actions wisely to have the best effect on his followers is his skills with working with people–his followers. The psychodynamic approach gives five ego states for leaders and followers. They can either be in the controlling parent, nurturing parent, adult, free child, or adapted child state. Each ego state corresponds to a different way of reacting to outside stimuli. A skilled leader should know which ego state his or her followers are at before acting. For example, if his followers are mostly in the nurturing parent state, then it would be wise to trust his followers to help each other, so the leader doesn’t need to spend his time helping followers. If his followers are mostly in the free child state, it would be wise not to make too many intrusive or bureaucratic actions, as his followers are very rebellious. In short, in psychodynamic theory, a leader can demonstrate skill by knowing the personality types of his followers and act accordingly.

Connection with Mumford’s Skills model

The psychodynamic approach focuses on the personality of leaders and followers. In Mumford’s skills model, personality is an individual attribute, meaning that the personality of the leader would impact how he led. This resonates with the the psychodynamic approach because the psychodynamic approach states the ego state of the leader is an important part in the dyadic interactions between the leader and the followers. The psychodynamic approach gives five ego states for leaders and followers. They can either be in the controlling parent, nurturing parent, adult, free child, or adapted child state. Each ego state corresponds to a different way of reacting to outside stimuli. For example, a less effective leader could be in a free child ego state. Such a leader could be distinguished by breaking down in critical situations and resorting to blaming others and being uncooperative rather than giving constructive directions. A leader could be in an adapted child ego state and stress the importance of following rules to his followers. A leader in the adult state would expect his followers to complete the tasks he assigns them. He would treat his followers professionally, giving them what they need, but not getting to close to them. A leader in the nurturing parent state would display numerous supporting behaviors to his followers, as he would have a personal interest in seeing his followers succeed. A leader in the controlling parent state would display numerous directive behaviors to his followers, as he would be obsessive about keeping his followers in line and being able to coerce them. Followers will react to each of these behaviors differently depending on their own ego state. For example, a controlling parent leader would not work well with a free child follower, as the leader would try to keep the follower in check but the follower would try his best to rebel. In short, the ego state of the leader in the psychodynamic approach corresponds to the personality of the leader as an individual attribute in Mumford’s skill’s model.

Skills Connection with Psychodynamic approach

The Psychodynamic approach states that one can either be in five ego states: controlling parent, nurturing parent, adult, free child, or adapted child state. Each ego state corresponds to a different way of reacting to outside stimuli. It also states that leaders can transition between different ego states. For example, in a meeting, if the leader presents a problem to the team, which would be indicative of an adult ego state, and the followers just ask what they need to do, which would be indicative of a child ego state, then the leader needs to transition to a nurturing parent ego state to support and guide the followers on what they need to do. This implies that the most skilled of the leaders and followers are generally in a parent state or an adult state. If one consistently is in the parent ego state, they will become an emergent leader even if they are currently only a follower, as they are concerned about uniting others. Eventually, emergent leaders become appointed leaders. Thus, as long as any aspiring individual has the proper skills to be in the parent ego state, they can rise to a leader. The skills approach was appealing because it implied that anyone could be a leader, as long as they learned the skills. Thus, the two theories connect because they both provide a meritocratic view of leadership, where if one learns the necessary skills, they can rise to the top.

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