Leading Wisely: Becoming a Reflective Leader in Turbulent Times – Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries Book Summary

Leading Wisely: Becoming a Reflective Leader in Turbulent Times – Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries | Free Book Summary

Leading Wisely: Becoming a Reflective Leader in Turbulent Times – Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

Leading Wisely: Becoming a Reflective Leader in Turbulent Times is a book by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries that explores the importance of reflection and self-knowledge for effective leadership in turbulent times. The book contains insights from a range of case studies and explores the challenges of leading in constantly changing environments. 

By developing a reflective approach, Kets de Vries argues, leaders can better understand the complexities of their environment and make effective decisions. The book provides guidance and exercises for leaders to develop the ability to think critically and reflect on their decisions and their environment.

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Additionally, the book provides tools and techniques that can be used to develop a deeper understanding of their organization, so they can make better decisions in the future

The Golden Rule

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One day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry young man came up and began insulting him, hurling all kinds of rude words at him, intended to ridicule and demean him.

The Buddha didn’t appear to be upset at all by these insults. Instead, he asked the young man, ‘Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?’

The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, ‘Of course, it would belong to me, because I bought the gift.’

The Buddha smiled and said, ‘That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I don’t get insulted, then the anger falls back onto you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you are doing is hurting yourself.’

The Golden Rule suggests that you always treat people the way you would like to be treated yourself. In other words, what you do not want to be done to you, you should not do to others.

Building bridges

Every day you have the choice between building fences or building bridges. One approach leads to isolation and irritation, the other to togetherness.

Perhaps, next time, when somebody does you a wrong, you could remind yourself of all the things he or she did right. It might change your point of view.

Even when whatever unfortunate thing happened was not your fault, the way you react to it will still be your responsibility. It is up to you to react wisely.

There is an extraordinary healing power in taking steps to forgive somebody, and that includes yourself. Although forgiving someone will not necessarily change the other person, it might very well change you. Therefore, it is quite unfortunate, in spite of its many benefits, that forgiveness is still one of the hardest things to do in life.


Unfortunately, for some people, the need to derogate someone whom they envy, becomes all-consuming. Similar to Cinderella’s sisters, they become vindictive and act spitefully. Sadly enough, by putting other people down, they are trying to lift themselves up.

We can ask ourselves, however, whether that is a wise way of dealing with the challenges that life has to offer.

Obviously, envy and wisdom are not compatible roommates. What also should be kept in mind is that wanting what another person possesses is not necessarily a bad thing.

Envy can be a great motivating force.

For example, you may need a degree of envy to have ambition. Being somewhat envious of another person may motivate you to work harder – to get to where you really want to be. Actually, due to envy, you may go down a successful path that you would have otherwise never taken.


Looking at the history of humankind, much of the messes that have come about occurred because the leaders who were in charge were not satisfied with what they had. Instead, many of these leaders, past and present, have proven to be deeply wanting.

All too often they had forgotten that the purpose of effective leadership is to better the lives of others, instead of taking advantage of their power to satisfy their personal greed. In fact, the victory of greed over love and compassion can always be looked at as the darker side of human nature.

As the German philosopher Friedrich Engels said, ‘From the first day to this, sheer greed was the driving spirit of civilization.’


Listening implies inviting another person into your life. Listening is about making space for the other person, but as you may have discovered for yourself, to create this space is not always easy. In many instances,

if you would be prepared to do a time and motion study, you may discover that while you think that you are engaged in an interchange of give-and-take, in reality, you are spending most of your life speaking.


The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius said, ‘The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.’ According to him, it is not what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is how you think.

The theologian Albert Schweitzer was wittier when saying, ‘Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.’

Wise people have realized, however, that much happiness is not out there; it is to be found within you.

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