IMD International

Hostages and leadership

A TEDx talk by IMD Professor George Kohlrieser

October 1, 2014


Image copyright TEDXFultonstreet

"Leadership means never being a hostage to anyone, anything, anywhere, at any time, even to yourself," said IMD Professor George Kohlrieser.

That was the central message of a recent TEDx talk Kohlrieser gave in New York on the theme of "A Hostage Negotiator Teaches Leadership Through Bonding."

Kohlrieser, who was himself held hostage four times during his career as a hostage negotiator, said that people can be held hostage not only physically but also psychologically.

He asked the audience at the TEDx event what they would do in either situation, and went on to show how the hostage analogy relates to leadership.

First, Kohlrieser said, leadership is about managing yourself so that people follow you. Second, as in a hostage situation, leadership is about making a connection, bonding with others, and "taking yourself into the space of another human being."

Successful leaders also need to demonstrate trust and positive thinking. They need to address conflict when necessary, or "put the fish on the table" in Kohlrieser's phrase. And the best leaders need a "secure base" so that they can take risks, go through pain and in turn become secure bases for others in their organization.

"Leadership is about inspiring. It's not about discouraging. It's about taking yourself and others into areas of discomfort," he said.

You can watch the full talk on the TEDx website here.

George Kohlrieser is a Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD, where he directs the High Performance Leadership (HPL), Advanced High Performance Leadership (AHPL) and Learning Leadership (LL) programs.

Kohlrieser is author of the award-winning bestseller Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others and Raise Performance. His latest book is Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential through Secure Base Leadership.

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