Working papers

Death and the Executive: Encounters with the “Stealth” Motivator (2014)

Manfred Kets de Vries

"Death anxiety and succession issues"

This article takes a clinical lens to explore death anxiety as a motivational force, how it affects behaviour in organisations, and how we metabolise the feelings death evokes. In addition, the author examines the various ways we deal with our knowledge of death. Some of us go into overdrive in trying to suppress it, while others fall into a state of resignation and depression. To deal with the ultimate narcissistic injury that death represents, we resort to a variety of immortality strategies to create permanent or enduring meaning. Furthermore, from an organisational perspective, three maladaptive responses to death anxiety are explored: the manic defense, succession issues, and the edifice complex.

INSEAD Working Paper, 2014

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