Exploring the Russian Leadership Mystique: A Plea for Change

25 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2018

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

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: November 13, 2018


In this article I examine the cultural historical context that affects the Russian national character. I refer to the Russian climate, the centuries of social unrest that have troubled the country’s history, the multi-ethnic composition of its citizens, the role of the Orthodox church, the mir, the dramatic fall of Communism and rise of materialism, the insidious “bureaupathology,” and the persistence of “Oblomovism.” I also discuss decision-making practices and power dynamics within Russian organizations, highlighting the difference between authoritarian and authoritative leadership practices and exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian leadership style. I consider Russia’s history of despotic rulers — and its preference for a “managed democracy” — and how the rise of materialism brought many dysfunctionalities, including increased corruption, and (for many citizens) the loss of a moral compass.

In the last part of the article I present an agenda for change, making a plea for a new, more innovative, educational paradigm for the younger generation of Russians that focuses on character development (social and emotional learning, moral reasoning, and other important life skills). I make a number of suggestions about the role management education, different organizational designs, and new leadership practices can play in inducing changes in Russian society and make a case for the need for responsible entrepreneurship.

Keywords: Leadership Style, Communism, Despotism, Materialism, Bureaupathology, Oblomovism, Corruption, “Managed Democracy”, Educational Reform, Character, Moral compass, Ethics, Authoritative Leadership, Management Education, Entrepreneurship

Suggested Citation

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., Exploring the Russian Leadership Mystique: A Plea for Change (November 13, 2018). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2018/53/EFE. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3283582

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

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305

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