Leadership and Designing with the Archetypes

Posted on September 29, 2017

Swiss psychotherapist Carl G. Jung used the word “Archetype” in relation to the human psyche, to refer to the recurring mythic characters found in our universal stories. Jung identified twelve primary archetypes that symbolize basic human motivations. Each archetype has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits. These archetypes are:

  • The Innocent – optimistic, kind and simplistic.
  • The Everyperson – real, honest and hardworking.
  • The Hero – disciplined and focused; inspires others to be bigger, braver and stronger.
  • The Caregiver – responsive, consistent and trustworthy; cares for and protects others.
  • The Explorer – adventure seeker, focused on the horizon.
  • The Lover – creates experiences that build relationships and long-lasting memories.
  • The Revolutionary – stands up for what he/she believes in to make way for creative breakthroughs.
  • The Creator – uses inventive foresight to mould the world of possibilities.
  • The Ruler – uses authority and expertise to influence change and create new order.
  • The Magician – dreams big, changes our perspective, transforms the world.
  • The Sage – helps the world to gain wisdom and insight.
  • The Jester – playful and spontaneous, brings joy to a situation.

Image Source: Denise Chan on Unsplash
(Reference for descriptions: Business Owner’s Playbook and Culture Talk)

Jung believed that to achieve individuation – the path to self-realisation or wholeness- we must bring aspects of our personality out of our unconscious (the part of our psyche that remains in the background/ outside of conscious awareness) into our conscious awareness.

Since archetypes are universal models for personality traits, a powerful way to undergo individuation can be to explore which archetypes are in the background of our conscious awareness and to integrate their associated values, meanings and motivations into our conscious way of being and acting in the world. In doing so we learn to more successfully adapt, flex and thrive in response to that which we encounter through life.

Leaders can find inspiration from the individuation process when it comes to facilitating the evolution of their team. By regarding their team as having a ‘collective psyche’ and adopting Jung’s philosophy of archetypes and self-realisation, Leaders can support their team’s journey towards realising it’s highest potential.

Image source: Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Leaders who understand and can identify the main underlying motivations that govern their team’s collective actions, have the power to explore and experiment with different archetypal qualities to strategically design and diagnose new behaviours, mindsets and skills that are necessary to effectively address: changing demands, new challenges, the need for innovation.

By cultivating an appreciation for archetypes and the role they have in the human psyche (both at the level of Self and Team), and working with their team to identify which are the major archetypes at play in the conscious activity of their work (and conversely, which archetypes are in the background of what they do), Leaders can creatively leverage the stories associated with archetypes as powerful reference points for harnessing desired qualities of action and motivation that a team may benefit from embedding into their behaviour and mindset.

One way to do this might be to hold discussions and explore questions along the lines of:

  • “What would the Sage’s response to this be?”
  • “Which archetype are we collectively enacting most in this situation?”
  • “Which Archetype could be challenging our thinking in this decision?”

Click on this link to complete a fun quiz that will help you discover which archetype members of your team are influenced the most by, and to learn more about the qualities of the different archetypes and how they might inspire your team culture.

At Redwood and Co we craft creative learning environments that celebrate that which makes each individual unique – encouraging leaders to bring their whole-selves into the learning experience courageously, curiously and joyfully. 

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