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Psychodynamics Case Page

Created by Team 4: Brendan Bagley, Jennifer Disano, Megan Fisher, Hiba Moussa, & Sarah Swan


Brandi works at Evolution Fresh Juice Company (EFJC). Brandi is in charge of creative packaging and oversees a team of 12 creative artists, and two team leaders Josephine and Khaseem. Brandi has been tasked to rebrand all EFJC packaging, and she is very nervous about this big task. Brandi knows that all decisions regarding work task assignments and end-product design fall under her responsibility.  Therefore, she is determined to do a good job. Most of Brandi’s previous work has been on the creative side working independently on advertising campaigns, and she has never led a team before this opportunity. To accomplish the work in a timely fashion, Brandi has taken the approach of a controlling manager, and she insists on participating in the creative process with Josephine and Khaseem. At times, Brandi will make a decision then change her mind mid-work and force the team to start over with a new idea; adding more work. This has caused morale issues for Josephine and Khaseem and their subordinates as they feel second-guessed, micromanaged and embarrassed to relay these changes to the team after they had worked so hard on the originally approved idea.

Additionally, Brandi pressures her team leaders to meet deadlines that become unmanageable and unattainable due to the continuous last minute changes Brandi insists must be made. Failing to meet deadlines enrages Brandi, and she has slammed doors and yelled, especially at Josephine. When this occurs, Brandi recognizes that she should not behave in this way and quickly corrects herself and apologizes. Josephine and Khaseem then take those opportunities to provide Brandi feedback about the constant changes that are causing issues as well as their inability to provide creative freedom and oversight of project tasks due to Brandi’s management style. Brandi didn’t realize beforehand how her behavior affected the team. She decides to take the time to evaluate what is happening to her and the team. 

Josephine and Khaseem

Josephine and Khaseem are artists. They have been with the company for many years and enjoy their work and leading their team. Josephine is quiet and kind while Khaseem is outgoing and fun. They are great team leaders and their subordinates enjoy the freedom to be creative and expressive due to their management style.  Josephine is always on time and has a very careful process to accomplish her tasks. Khaseem is more free flow with his time, tasks, and teammates but he has high standards and meets deadlines. 

Family Dynamics

Brandi’s father was an artist who spent much of his time in his studio and was annoyed with his children. He routinely yelled to get his way in the household.  As the oldest sibling, Brandi was often “put in charge” of her younger sisters and she liked ordering them around.


Brandi does not understand that her shadow self is sabotaging her leadership ability. Brandi does not know her follower’s discontent nor how they see her.

Path to Resolution

Through an application of psychodynamic approach, we will examine the leader traits, maturation, shadow self, and archetype. By evaluating the leader, we will reveal the interplay of her emotions, reactions and motives and how they contribute to the problem. We will explore dynamic interactions of Brandi’s ego states and evaluate the transactional analysis of both leader and followers and recommend a resolution of the problem.

Application of Psychodynamic Approach

For Brandi to be a better leader, she must self-examine.

The psychodynamic approach takes into account the tests and evaluations of leadership style and focuses on their usefulness because of the insights they produce. This helps a leader who understands her/his style to be more effective. And if the leader understands how the style came to fruition is even more effective (Clarke, 2016)  If Brandi takes the time and effort self-examine then perhaps, this will provide her the insights she needs to understand better why she behaves the way she does.  In turn, it would help her better identify the problems that she is causing others, and prevent herself from causing those problems in the future.  With this added level of effort an insight on Brandi’s behalf, it will undoubtedly have positive effects for both herself as well as her team.

Brandi needs to understand her maturation dynamics.

A leader’s style is derived from the leadership he or she has seen in parents, teachers, coaches, etc. while growing up. The leader may copy the style of someone in their life or choose to become that is opposite of one of these people (Clarke, 2016). It appears that Brandi has indeed adopted the style of her father concerning her management approach.  If she were to realize this, it would assist her in seeing her flaws as she saw them in her father.  Once this apparent, Brandi could modify her behavior and have a supportive approach to her team.

It would help Brandi to reveal her ‘shadow self’ so she can better understand her team’s reactions. 

“The shadow self is the negative aspects about oneself and is often hidden to the person upon self-examination” (Feist & Feist, 2009).  If leaders can recognize their shadow selves, it will be helpful to them. Other people will react to the shadow self because it is readily apparent to them. Once a leader sees/understands the shadow it will better enable them to work with and interrelate with others (Clarke, 2016).  Brandi would do well to recognize her shadow self by reflecting on the feedback her employees have provided to her on various occasions.  She could also recognize that her team leaders are not communicating with her as often, and this would also shed light on her shadow self.  Once this is realized, if Brandi displays characteristics of her shadow self again, she can curb them or prevent them from occurring altogether.

Transactional analysis and ego states help decipher the relationship between Brandi (leader) and her team (followers).

Transactional analysis is a system of social psychiatry” (Byrne, 1961). It studies how people interact with each other using a psychodynamic point of view. The focus is how people’s personalities interrelate with others (Clarke, 2016). Brandi fails to recognize that both Josephine and Khaseem have not only been with the company for several years, but they are competent team leads.  They accomplish their work in an effective and timely fashion, and the team likes them.  Brandi fails to conduct a transactional analysis between herself and the team leads.  She decides to take an authoritative approach, and in doing so, she fails to recognize and exploit their effectiveness as team leads.  If Brandi takes the time to observe herself in the transactional analysis, she can see her personality and its alignment or conflict with Josephine and Khaseem and work to improve it.

Further, an exploration of ego states will help to identify Brandi’s motives for her behavior.

  • The parent ego state is the reflection of the unconscious learning of behavior from one's parents. This will provide the impetus for leaders to be critical of followers or nurture followers.

  • The adult ego state is similar to Freud's superego, and it is the most logical of the three states. The transactional analysis focuses on strengthening the adult ego state.

  • The child ego state is the source of emotions that are similar to childhood behaviors like having fun or rebelling. This affects followers because they can exude characteristics of fun loving and flexible or fight back and lack productivity.

Brandi must be willing to discern the ego states and their application to her work situation.  If she were to take the time to do this, she would realize that her efforts regarding the parent ego state manifest themselves as a “critical of followers” approach toward her team members. 

How applying the theory can resolve the issue

Brandi decides to evaluate herself to understand the reasons for her behavior. Even though she hasn’t led a team, she is knowledgeable in creative packaging. She has the knowledge and experience to generate a successful product; however, the collaboration of a team will help receive new ideas to have a successful product.

She noticed in her outburst that she was wrong, then apologized to the team leads. She was fully aware of the conscious decision to behave inappropriately. At the time, she didn’t understand the reason for the outburst because of the subconscious behaviors learned from past experiences. Her goal is to take the time to evaluate the reasons for her outbursts and concerns from the members.

The psychodynamic approach is used to help a leader become effective by understanding themselves and subordinates’ responses to their behavior. Brandi took the first step to evaluate the situation. To begin to understand herself clearly, she can review the people in her life that influenced her behaviors such as her family. Her father wasn’t the best model; however, subconscious behaviors were adopted. He had an unreasonable process to communicate, often intolerable of his children. Brandi was placed in a parental role to help with her sisters. She communicated with her siblings as their father did with them. She learned that yelling was the only solution to have people follow the request/order. During her individualization process, she adopted the behaviors of her father in an authority position. As an adult, she continued the style of her father.

Even though Brandi is an authoritarian leader, she can be an effective leader by recognizing her past experiences. Therefore, Brandi has to realize how her behaviors are affecting others. She has to recognize when the shadow of her past is impacting her role as a team leader and the relationships with co-workers. It can be difficult to know when behaviors are blurred because the shadow of the past is subconscious. Because Brandi realizes that her leadership style was adopted from her father, she can use a simple technique to help remind her of the shadow self. She can look at the shadow of her body when she is in the light. It can be a simple reminder the shadow is always there even though sometimes we can’t see it.

Furthermore, Brandi can use the transactional analysis to be proactive to develop as a leader. The three states and their subcategories are present within Brandi by her attitudes, emotions, and language when interacting with others and thinking to herself. For instance, when she is supportive of her team she may use the nurturing parent role. Her job is creative, therefore, allow the creativity of the team to generate a strong package. She can use the adult ego state by asking a question, such as “What are my options?” The childlike state can be used to ask for help.

The ego states are not good or bad but are utilized in different situations. At times, Brandi will use the critical parent role to lead and enforce standards. Other times, she will use the nurturing parent to support the team through difficulties. Also, the primitive adult is used, when she evaluates the unstated words or emotions of others. Furthermore, the free child is used to express joy. For instance, if the team reached a milestone goal then she and the team would express joy that they succeeded in meeting a goal. Brandi has to be cautious not to overuse one state because it will create conflict within the team. The style that Brandi uses will affect how her followers react to her. If she uses the adult state, it will most likely trigger the follower to have an adult response.

Also, Brandi can use the transactional analysis to evaluate her team. She can observe how the team communicates with each other. What language are they using? Are they using the adult state to problem solve or childlike state by fighting about the problems? Are they using the critical parent state by blaming other members for issues?

Brandi will become an effective leader by using the transactional analysis ego-states to provide awareness of the underlining causes that shape her behaviors and mindset.


Clark, J. (2016). Lesson 4: Psychodynamic Approach. Retrieved from Penn State      
          University, PSY532- Psychological   Foundations of Leadership website.


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