Notes for Psychological Containment: A Critical Leadership Success Factor — Especially Now

Steven F. Freeman
Knowledge + Leadership
1 min readJul 22, 2020

[1] See especially:

  • Bion, W.R. (1962). Learning from Experience, London: William Heinemann. [Reprinted London: Karnac Books,].
  • Bion, W.R. (1963). Elements of Psycho-Analysis, London: William Heinemann. [Reprinted London: Karnac].

Both reprinted in Bion, W.R. (1977). Seven Servants. New York: Jason Aronson Inc.

[2] Troubles come not only from what we consider undesirable conditions. Office romance, for example, can be among the most important TFBs to contain.

[3] It can be difficult at times to tease out TFBs that are a function of the work itself vs those created by organizational dysfunction, for example ethical concerns about being asked to do things distinctly not in the clients’ or public interest; or dissonance from working for an overly zealous mission or leader.

[4] The past half-century has seen declines in job security, unins, guilds and professional organizations, increased global competition, off-shoring, the need for two family incomes, longer commutes, the need for ever-increasing continuing education and retraining, and the growing threat of en masse replacement by artificial intelligence.

[5] Face-To-Face Meetings:

  • Build Trust: “Handshaking promotes cooperative dealmaking.” (Schroeder, et al 2014).
  • Communicate more: You Pick Up Hidden, Silent messages. (Mehrabian 1971)
  • Provide energy, emotional contagion: e.g., helps others get excited about what you’re excited about. (Rizzolatti and Craighero, 2004)
  • Improve attention: (Duffy and McEuen,2010).
  • You like the person more: A consequence of distributed work: …the lonely office (Rockmann and Pratt, 2015)

[6] Center for Creative Leadership has long studied failure in executives.

[7] See Process Consultation by Edgar Schein.




Steven F. Freeman
Knowledge + Leadership

Expertise: crisis preparedness, resiliency, innovation, research methods & applications. Faculty Jefferson, UPenn+. PhD MIT. Advising industry, govnt, orgs, YOU