In an operational department of 4,000 people (High Tech), there was a new couple of leaders - president/general manager who have the mission of changing the operating rules of the entire activity. The case is in a setting of sweeping change.

The new CEO maintains relations with the members of his CODIR which are becoming increasingly tense:

  • The CEO perceives his CODIR as hostile and not very collaborative (most members are mobile or say they are thinking about it)
  • CODIR members perceive its CEO as someone fussy, authoritarian and not very expert: "he focuses on details", "he does not fit into the files", "he does not commit", "he refuses to 'to be helped'

 ➔ mistrust on both sides sets in

One day, the CEO's assistant complained of harassment and the occupational physician shared his suspicion of dealing with a narcissistic pervert and demanded the immediate transfer of the assistant.

This is a worrying situation from a management perspective because there is:

  • a "victim" put out of play
  • some managers see him as dangerous
  • a doubt for the president and the HRD: Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?

Faced with the allegations of harassment, management reacted:

  •   the President advised the DG to be more flexible and assured him of his support. The President remains in solidarity with the DG
  •   the President organized a meeting with the CODIR to collect the points of view on the event, and he prefers to do it without the presence of the DG
  •   the President supported the idea of ​​a coaching action for his CEO → (it is in this case that the HRD called LACT)
  •   the HR department has launched an internal investigation led by an internal coach


The CEO is convinced that he does not have the profile required to lead his CODIR and denies it: there is a dysfunctional self-illusion that he makes him say: “I am not up to it”. He can't stand the signals of rejection that would confirm his belief that he is not up to it.

The DG's attempted solutions:

  1. He will distract himself from fear, he will try not to think about it anymore
  2. he seeks above all to reassure himself, by acting with the intention of obtaining proofs of his legitimate authority.

In a collective situation, he finds himself in an extremely tense state, he tries to be efficient:

  1. he avoids debates in meetings on the difficulties encountered
  2.  by the members of the CODIR; he himself avoids talking about his own difficulties
  3. he is directive, he makes proposals

When the members of the CODIR do not react to his proposals or if he cannot avoid the subject of the difficulties they are encountering, then he steps back and says: "that discourages me, I give up". There is a feeling of loss of control which reactivates her vulnerability.

When he is not in a collective situation, with those who have the function of assisting him, he tries to control the situation until he becomes rigid and finicky. For example, with his assistant (the old one, the new one), with the internal coach, HR: he focuses on details, he justifies his actions, he insistently tries to adhere to his directives, he shows demanding, directive, picky, manic, with urgency and authority.

Its insistence and its justifications are variously perceived: as a form of fragility or as the behavior of a maniac or a pervert; His assistant, the internal coach, the president, the HRD tried to reassure him, they told him that he can trust. The more he insists, the more there is an urgency to satisfy him.

The members of the CODIR complain about their CEO among themselves and to those who approach them on this subject and remain silent in front of him, in particular in the meetings of the CODIR. Individual and collective beliefs that the CEO is not up to the task crystallize.

Beliefs of suspicion become rigid: oscillating on the hypothesis of the narcissistic pervert or that of an impostor. They are shared by the members of the CODIR and feared by the President and the HRD.

We find ourselves in a context where the authority is failing on the part of the CEO and this situation neutralizes the cooperation of his CODIR on the transformation and weakens the position of the president.


 1 - Diagnosis

We start with an operational diagnosis with the relevant system : the president - the general manager - the HRD - the internal coach with a restitution which was a "work meeting" to identify the president's "problem and objective" in relation to this situation.

The operative diagnosis was to finally present the situation of a leader who was disarmed in the face of a team that solicits him on a field of expertise that is not his. He knows that the president thinks this expertise is not necessary, but feels weakened not to have it.

2 - The intervention strategy

The specific prescriptions were oriented to make him experience another reality :

  • Confront the collective relationship rather than avoiding it (especially in relation to your CODIR)
  • Observing all the signals that confirm the danger
  • Observing his collaborators as different people with different needs from his own
  • The secret weapon: benevolence (give space to your collaborators to be able to better hear what they need)

By confronting the collective relationship with his team and taking the risk of showing its fragility (no immediate solution to the expression of the concerns of his collaborators), he discovers a new way of exercising his influence :

  • This relieves his collaborators, who will say to themselves that he is more interested in them.
  • Without an immediate solution, it promotes the search for a solution on their own
  • This brings out a new belief : "It's powerful" = "I'm up to it..."