The Unwanted Self: Projective Identification in Leaders' Identity Work

42 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2012

See all articles by Gianpiero Petriglieri

Gianpiero Petriglieri

INSEAD - Organisational Behavior

Mark Stein

University of Leicester School of Management

Date Written: March 28, 2012

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.

Keywords: Projective Identification, Identity Work, Leader Development, Psychodynamics

Suggested Citation

Petriglieri, Gianpiero and Stein, Mark, The Unwanted Self: Projective Identification in Leaders' Identity Work (March 28, 2012). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2012/40/OB, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2030314 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2030314

Gianpiero Petriglieri (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Organisational Behavior ( email )

Finance area, Boulevard de Constance
Fontainebleau 77305
France

Mark Stein

University of Leicester School of Management ( email )

Leicester
Leicester, AK LE1 4AY
United Kingdom

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