Trump: A Tragi-Comedy

13 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2018

See all articles by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: June 11, 2018


This article explores the concept of tragi-comedy in which both forms of artistic endeavor are combined. An example of the genre, the film “The Death of Stalin”, is reviewed, portraying the consequences of dictatorial leadership. However, it is not only in the Russian mindscape where tragi-comedy can turn into a cautionary tale about flawed leadership. Looking at the state of the world, “great men” are once more on the rise and disturbing socio-political developments are occurring even in the “land of the free”. Given President Trump’s determination to “Make America Great Again”, this article explores the question of how he is recasting leadership. What’s very disturbing in these dynamics is the obsequiousness of his inner circle. Drawing parallels with scenes from the firm in the aftermath of Stalin’s death, I explore how exposure to flattery prevents leaders from recognizing the hidden agendas behind such behavior. Flattery has an insidious way of moving into the collective unconscious, often with devastating results. Observations are made about the interface between flattery and groupthink, as well as how it gives rise to social defenses. Ultimately, the question becomes, will Trump’s presidency be a comedy or tragedy?

Keywords: Dysfunctional Leadership, “Great Man”, Obsequiousness, Flattery, Social Defenses, Groupthink, Faulty Decision-Making

Suggested Citation

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., Trump: A Tragi-Comedy (June 11, 2018). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2018/22/EFE. Available at SSRN: or

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics