Is Your Leadership Style Killing Your Company? Exploring The 12 Leader Archetypes
“I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”
― Benjamin Disraeli
I remember studying Carl Jung’s 12 personality archetypes during a psychology course in college. Jung, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, often known for his collaborations (and later falling out) with renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud and his ground-breaking book, The Red Book, spent decades conceptualizing and publishing various articles and books surrounding the human condition.
And though I personally have always had a sort of up-and-down relationship with psychological theories as a whole, this is one that I found myself taking note of whenever I worked with new people, or as I examined the leadership styles of C-level executives both at the organizations at which I’ve worked and in the public.
Question: Are leaders born or made?
The answer to this question has sparked some of the most engaging, research-worthy (and polarizing) discussions of the past 50 years.
My Answer (and thoughts on Nature vs Nurture):
It’s always been my belief that we are who we are from birth, and that it’s our experiences in life which shape us into the type of people that we eventually become. I believe that the various themes of our lives create unconscious personality designs that ultimately affect and guide our motivations, and subsequently our decision-making.
This also explains my ongoing BEEF with the birds that hang out at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco…digressing.
So…on to the 12 archetypes. Jung identified 12 main character types of the human unconscious, which are derived from one of the three areas of our personality according to his theory-Ego, Self, and Soul. These three areas he believed, are the source of our daily undertakings and are direct drivers of our personality traits.
Perhaps we all have each of these archetypes alive and well within us to some degree, but the overwhelming presence of one particular trait (like anything in life) definitely can spell disaster.
And in respect to an organization and its employees, this can spell the difference between a company with high employee morale, and one with staff members who’re constantly firing off resumes on CareerBuilder while they break for lunch.
The 12 Leadership Archetypes:
1. The Hero
The Hero puts forth their best efforts, despite potential blowback and risks, in order to “make things right”. They’re not afraid of being the first Indians over the hill in order to try the “untried”-even if it means being shot first. Heroes, of course, favor well with employees, given they keep their valor tamed with an appropriate degree of caution.
2. The Innocent
Oh the Innocent leader, a lover of great experiences and personal values steeped morality, ponies, rainbows, and just all-around positivity. How can they ever do any wrong? I love this archetype because of their intrinsic good nature, however their desire to make everything “great” can blind them from the reality of potentially harmful circumstances surrounding their business. Rose-colored glasses seem to be their go-to design.
3. The Orphan
I see this archetype more and more in new millennial startup entrepreneurs and self-made gurus. As our culture continues to shift to one welcoming of openness and transparency, it’s easy to see why so many new-age founders base their marketing and branding strategies on genuinely connecting with their audiences and sharing real experiences. Superficial “I’m Just an Everyday Joe” mantras, however, can be innately snuffed out by most people and met with the distaste similar to that of casu marzu cheese (hard to believe that this actually exists).
4. The Caregiver
We see Caregiver leaders all of the time, especially in managerial roles where leaders typically work more closely with staff members, allowing them to grow an organic bond and mutual respect for one another. Caregivers draw sincere concern about the well-being of their staff and are eager to foster their growth and development. They may place a high concentration on personal development and skills training, as well as educational assistance and various aids.
While a very notable archetype, Caregivers can soon find themselves spread too thin or over-committed, which can hinder their bandwidth for other projects essential to the companies operation.
5. The Sage
The Sage is definitely my favorite archetype as they’re often led by an insatiable desire to discover the truths of the world. Their main goals are to expand their knowledge and create things that move society forward in some way. They have a general knack for learning both their environment and themselves.
The downside to their non-stop “discovery”, however, is their susceptibility to be stuck in “Paralysis Analysis”, constantly introducing new ideas to their teams but falling short of follow-through and well-thought-out execution.
6. The Ruler
“Control, control, and just a little more control”, said the leader who neglected to hear their staff members bemoaning their presentation once they left the meeting. Rulers create the order, systems, and environments that they believe are needed to stay #Winning. Rulers tend to be autocratic, come in all shapes and sizes, and the outcomes of their leadership styles will vary from person to person and company to company.
In some cases, Ruler archetypes are burdened with a relentless need to be adulated, which is typically derived from an unresolved feeling of inadequacy in some area or another. Narcissism and/or a hard-nosed, “no excuses” mentality can often play a huge role in their leadership style and may be met with fear and aversion from their staff members.
Just take a look at some of the interviews of Apple employees who worked under Steve Jobs (some of their anecdotes are actually pretty funny). While many have said that he was a narcissist, he was obviously a man who knew what he wanted-but perhaps one who didn’t always communicate this in the most congenial way.
However…he’s responsible for some of the most ground-breaking technological advances that we see today.
7. The Jester
Jesters, or as I like to refer to them, the YOLOs, are always racing against time. They believe that the world is their oyster and it’s their life’s goal to paint said oyster red with their numerous endeavors and fast-paced experiences.
A Jester can be the innovator to ascend a dull, lifeless company from the graveyard to the highest echelon of a Forbes list, but it’s important that they are kept on a leash (sorry I couldn’t think of a better analogy) to avoid having to mop up any paths of destruction that they may leave during the process.
8. The Magician
Visionaries at their core, Magicians are the movers and shakers who work tirelessly once they have their mindset on a goal. They're always looking at the newest, greatest happenings, and don’t mind taking a calculated risk if it means transforming an industry or ridding of an outdated practice. But…Magicians (like Daedalus) can be too smart for their own good, and that coupled with any dishonest or self-serving intentions can lead the paths to their own ruin.
9. The Creator
The Creator is an artist at heart and the quintessential right-brain thinker. Seeking to both inspire and be inspired, their imaginative nature can lead them into many directions. With self-expression and creativity at the foundation of their endeavors, it’s not uncommon for them to struggle with balancing their creative proclivities with the daily, detail-oriented demands of running a business.
10. The Explorer
Explorers tend to believe that boundaries are self-created, and therefore can be transcended. They seek to expand their knowledge of their industry and are constantly pushing the envelope to open up any and all possibilities for change, growth, and innovation.
While Explorers have an inquisitive nature that can push businesses and industries forward in amazing ways, they can just as surely become endless wanderers who spend tons of resources (money) trying to make the best “even better”.
11. The Lover
Ah yes, the Lover, an all-time favorite of many. The Lover’s compassion and desire for true closeness with others are often praised by those around them. A people-pleasure at the core, their main motivation centers around intimacy and the fostering of deep connections with their employees and their customers.
This particular archetype tends to be a social butterfly and great communicator, but their passionate nature can be seen by some as weakness, which can lead to manipulation and insolence.
12. The Outlaw
The Outlaw (or Rebel) has no qualms about taking risks or being shunned for their radical ideas or decisions. They inherently scoff at the notion of tradition and deeply believe in the freedom to challenge anything that doesn’t align with their own moral compass or beliefs of limitation.
Often quick to cut the cord on any idea or process that isn’t working, they can sometimes shoot themselves in the foot by not adhering to conventional norms that aren’t ready for their abrupt disruption, or prematurely dashing to the player’s table without knowing the rules of the game.
So… What type of leader archetype do you fancy yourself to be?
Wait! Don’t go yet!!
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