I Won’t, Therefore I Am: Being Stubborn

19 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2018

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

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: September 21, 2018


Starting with a fairy tale (sparked by the Brexit experience), this article explores the phenomenon of stubbornness. Although it describes how a leader’s stubbornness can be a force for the good—Charles de Gaulle being a prime example—it’s main focus is on how this behavior pattern can turn into a force for the bad. The fine line between stubbornness and persistence is explored, as well as the very narrow division between stubbornness and stupidity. It is demonstrated how, in many instances of stubbornness, the defense mechanism of denial reigns prominently. In addition, the role of the confirmation bias is highlighted. Also, stubbornness is explored from a phenomenological point of view, describing its behavioral manifestations. Reference is made to the relationship of stubbornness and power games, and ideological belief systems. Stubbornness is also looked at from a developmental point of view, taking an in-depth look at the kinds of strategies children use to deal with intrusive parenting. It is noted that stubbornness is often a strength of the weak—a compensatory reaction of dealing with a deep sense of inner vulnerability. Reference is made to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Mental Disorders (DSM V) description of the “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” (ODD), one of the more troublesome behavior patterns of childhood and adolescence. Finally, ways of dealing with stubborn people are explored.

Keywords: Stubbornness, Persistence, Leadership, Confirmation Bias, Closed Mindedness, Cognitive Complexity, Resistance to Change, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Weltanschauung

Suggested Citation

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., I Won’t, Therefore I Am: Being Stubborn (September 21, 2018). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2018/42/EFE, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3253106 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3253106

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

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305

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