Prof. Derek Deasy

Event: The Grand Tour


Derek is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD. He also directs the INSEAD Coaching Certificate. His interests include leadership development, burnout and resilience, the impact of emotionally demanding tasks on work groups. His research and practice in these areas are informed by a systems-psychodynamics approach that takes into account how group tasks, organizational structures and cultures are affected by, and affect, individuals’ experience at and of work.

Derek works regularly in development programmes for senior executives at INSEAD, and has contributed to open and in-company executive Programs, as well as to the full time MBAs, at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, and at IMD in Switzerland. He has given input on the psychodynamics of organisations to the Clinical Psychology doctoral programme at Trinity College, Dublin. He also has a varied executive coaching and consulting practice, currently including individual work with corporate leaders and work with teams in the technology sector and in entrepreneurial ventures.

Derek brings to all his work a particular focus on the personal benefits and costs of authenticity, effectiveness and success. He supports executives in developing functional approaches to self-care and resilience when dealing with jobs and tasks that require personal presence and intense emotional investment. Over the past decade, he has worked with corporations and executives in a wide range of sectors including construction, pharmaceuticals, fashion, technology and professional services.

In 2011 Derek was granted the title of Honorary Associate Professor of the Institute of Work, Health and Organisation with the University of Nottingham. He consults regularly to group relations conferences in Europe and the United States.

Abstract of session

Leadership in contexts where vulnerability and threat are ever present is a challenge for all involved. It is imperative that leaders in these contexts are as connected with their own senses of limitation as with their views of possibility. Common theories of stress management and wellness at work often focus on the individual as the one responsible for wellness with many urging the leaders to control their emotions and manage their stress themselves, quietly and away from colleagues. At the mildest end of the spectrum this approach is unsustainable. For the stressed individual it can generate issues of shame, powerlessness and disconnection – all ingredients for a vicious downward spiral. At one level it is interesting to explore why we invest in this type of approach when dealing with the issue of difficult emotions at work. This presentation will propose a more sustainable system of leadership that fosters professional and personal growth. From a systems psychodynamic perspective I will argue that organisations that embrace emotions as a source of organisational data and foster leadership spaces interested in the meaning of expression at work provide opportunities for growth at all levels of the organisation. I will also focus on the role of social defences that hinder growth in these contexts and argue for a tolerance of pain as an adaptive approach to effective leadership in challenging contexts.