Academic journal article Organisational and Social Dynamics

Understanding Organisational Dynamics and Leadership: A Comparison of Four Perspectives

Academic journal article Organisational and Social Dynamics

Understanding Organisational Dynamics and Leadership: A Comparison of Four Perspectives

Article excerpt

Decades of experience applying psychoanalytically informed insight to the workplace sometimes yields to a period of reflection on what one has learned over the years and the realities of the workplace. Large organisations as well as smaller ones, which are often family based, operate within a dynamic external context as well as possessing hard to know and comprehend internal dynamics. It is also important to appreciate human nature permeates organisations producing acts of humanism or, regrettably with some frequency, darkness that destroys people and the organisation (Stein, 2001). I begin this inquiry that will examine four informative but different ways of knowing organisations by providing three fairly common case vignettes to ground the inquiry in the workplace. These cases, while concealing the organisation, accurately reflect events that took place. Before proceeding there are a few provisos to mention.


In retrospect developing this article underscores the complexity and tensions resident in summarising book length manuscripts. Every effort was made to make the reviews representative. Equally important is appreciation of the intellectual tensions involved in applying theoretical perspectives to short case examples. In this regard the reader is encouraged to explore the successes or failings of this effort and self-generated additional insights into the theory, the cases, and their interpretations.

Exploring Bion's basic assumption groups in the second pair of comparisons and discussing organisations as a whole that have cultures and identities necessarily is inclusive of other perspectives. System theory with its appreciation of organic processes, and boundaries of many forms including with an external environment and the complex appreciation of systems of interaction of individuals, groups, leadership in the service of performing tasks is implicit in the discussion of organisational culture and identity and at times explicit. Also to be noted is that implicit in the discussion of organisational culture and identity is an appreciation of the presence of socially defensive systems that are adaptive to accomplishing work by helping to minimise and contain anxiety arising from participating in organisations and the nature of the work. Last, object relations concepts formulated by Melanie Klein (Segal, 1988) are discussed and definitions of terms provided. In particular the discussion of organisational identity draws heavily on object relations perspectives.

Many other important perspectives by other authors might also have been considered here. The nature of this comparative process required selecting from among a rich palette of possibilities. The first comparisons-organisational culture and identity-are selected because of their focus on the operating nature of the larger organisation although subcultures and identities certainly exist. The purpose here is to examine concepts consistent with examining an organisation as a whole. The particular selection of culture and identity is based on familiarity to the author, but also the contrast that is present in making the comparison that examines conscious and intentional management of culture and an appreciation of the many underlying psychodynamic aspects present in organisations covered in the discussion of organisational identity. The second two comparisons, while also in part selected due to familiarity, are selected to emphasise a second critically important aspect of organisational life-how one might describe or label organisational dynamics. Using typologies to describe organisational experience and dynamics is common and in this case both typologies emphasise the unconscious nature of organisational life. The two typologies offer many insights into what one may find as a researcher, employee, executive, or consultant.

A final consideration is the goal of this work. The careful inspection of various theoretical perspectives and comparison of perspectives offered here is intended to promote critical thinking-what exactly is being said by these authors and what does it mean in practice? …

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