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Archetypes of leadership

As Walt Disney is our cover figure for this issue, and EVOLVE is a publication aimed at maximizing self-dynamic, group-dynamic, and company vision, we figured an article exploring the characteristic styles - or archetypes - of leadership would fit in well. By Dima Issa

So, what is an Archetype? It’s a Jungian term, coined by Carl Jung in 1919, meaning an image, a pattern, a figure that exists in the collective unconscious of mankind. A mythic figure, existing on the level of self and the level of society, or a reappearing story — something that humans have internalized long ago, and now exist as idea constructs and part of daily life. Characters are very much like archetypal figures. Archetypes are things that can be broken down to the sum of their parts — actually, a good way of understanding archetypes is by understanding them as general characteristics that appear again and again throughout time. Much like Disney’s original characters.

Mickey is the well-meaning good guy, Goofy is the comedic relief, Donald Duck is the pessimistic complainer, and so it goes. However, these Disney characters exist as archetypes of being; no one is happy all the time, like Mickey — just as no one is a constant sourpuss like Donald. They have moved away from realism, and exist instead as exaggerated character types. In Jungian psychoanalysis, the archetype figure can appear in one’s own character, or it can appear in a larger form, perhaps operating on a societal level. The story of the Hero’s Journey is a grandiose archetype that appears throughout most cultures. The main point is, that archetypes are within us and within the world around us. We are more than our archetypes — they are merely parts of us, but they can help us understand facts about ourselves and about our collective humanity.

There have been volumes and volumes of books written about Leadership styles, or what constitutes great leadership, however now it is becoming more of a fixture to apply Jungian concepts to the modern business world. This is the work currently of Lolly Daskal, who is a leadership coach and the CEO of her own company, Lead From Within. Her book The Leadership Gap reviews archetypal styles of leadership, as well as considers the shadow cast by these stereotypical roles we oftentimes identify with. As you read through them, consider yourself, the people you know, and the work environment you are a part of. What archetypal figures can you start to see in the people around you.

The Seven Archetypes Daskal identifies are:

  • The Rebel, who is driven by confidence, and its shadow the Imposter, who is driven by self-doubt.

  • The Explorer, who is fueled by intuition, and its shadow the Exploiter, who is the master of manipulation.

  • The Truth Teller, who leads with honesty, and its shadow the Deceiver, who generates suspicion.

  • The Hero, who embodies courage and individuality, and its shadow the Bystander, who is fearful.

  • The Inventor, who is brimming with integrity and ingenuity, and its shadow the Destroyer, who is morally corrupt.

  • The Navigator, who trusts and is trusted, and its shadow the Fixer, who is endlessly arrogant.

  • The Knight, for whom loyalty is everything, and its shadow the Mercenary, who is perpetually self-serving.

In Jungian Theory, the shadow is an unusual concept. In nowadays usage, it is taken to mean the unconscious and undesirable sides of our personality that we keep hidden from the world. The part within us that gives in to temptation or addiction or deception. However, that was not necessarily what he may have intended when first writing about the shadow. Jung’s shadow only takes on this dangerous interpretation when it is not properly faced by the persona. When one hides from his shadow, he is doing a disservice to himself and others. “The shadow,” wrote Jung (1963), is “that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality”, which is to say, it holds no power.

However, when the shadow is run from, or projected onto others so as to avoid confronting it in oneself, is when it grows in size and scope and takes on a terrible connotation. Therefore, with Daskal’s seven archetypes, on the idea of shadow integration Daskal has this to say: “Stop comparing yourself to others. Focus on how far you have come and strive for continual self-improvement. Everyone’s success story is different, and yours will always be uniquely yours.

Make a list of your accomplishments. Keep your wins in plain sight so you are reminded of them regularly. Remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect. People who feel like Imposters (the shadow side of the Rebel archetype) hold the belief that they need to be perfect, but perfectionism sets you up for continual frustration because it’s unattainable.”

Daskal recommends questions we can ask of ourselves, if we want to enhance our careers at any given moment. They are:

Am I…..

  • Leading from greatness, or leading from my gaps?

  • Being a Rebel, or leading like an Imposter?

  • Being an Explorer, or leading like an Exploiter?

  • Being a Truth-teller, or leading like a Deceiver? And so on and so forth.

The Seven Archetypes, and archetypal work in general, are here to make us more conscious of our own selves. Both the light and potential within, and also whatever shadows may be cast off from that burning inner eternal light.

It is an important distinction to make also, that no one is limited to one specific archetype. Archetypes are ways of understanding parts of ourselves and parts of our world. But just as you would not understand the Sistine Chapel by the bricks in the wall, in the same way you would not restrict a person to a singular archetypal form. It is a means of reductionism that seek to elucidate understanding only.

The above Seven Archetypes on the whole apply more to the level of self. When working with archetypes, they can lead to insights regarding self and society. Another archetypes of leadership theory, applies more to leadership styles on a grander scale. What are the patterns of leading and leadership, versus what are the characters of leaders we encounter.

According to ASAE, the American Society of Association Executives, a leadership style is the way a person uses power to lead other people. If Daskal’s archetypes are seen as the types of characters we might find in positions of power, the work carried out by ASAE might be seen as the ways in which these characters lead.

Generally, ASAE explored delegation, responsibility, and how much input or how empowered employees feel under the various types of leadership. ASAE identified 12 leadership styles, however for the sake of brevity and continuity we will be addressing 7.

1. Democratic Leadership:

A style where the leader makes decisions based the input of each team member. According to ASAE, it is currently the most effective and widespread style of leadership out there, because it allows lower-level employees to exercise authority that they’ll need to use wisely in future positions in their careers. Also, it most resembles how decisions come to be made in company boardroom meetings.

2. Autocratic Leadership:

The opposite of democratic leadership. In this style, the leader makes all the decisions without considering anyone, and employees are expected to conform blindly to all choices made.

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership:

Laissez-faire is a french term that literally translates to “let them do”. Leaders under this style nearly give all authority to employees. However it can limit development and overlook critical company growth opportunities. It needs to be balanced with boundaries and clear-cut responsibilities and expectations.

4. Strategic Leadership:

Strategic leaders balance the needs of the boardroom with the needs of the individual. They play to strengths and support multiple types of employees at once.

5. Transformational Leadership:

This kind of leadership is all about transforming and improving upon the companies conventions. The leader will be constantly pushing employees outside of their comfort zones towards growth and challenges. This type of leadership is popular among growth-minded companies like Apple and Tesla.

6. Transactional Leadership:

Under this leadership style, managers reward their employees for the work they do. Incentives are used as motivating factors. A downside of this style is that it encourages bare-minimum effort.

7. Bureaucratic Leadership:

This leadership style puts company policy at the top. It is similar to autocratic leadership in how it is unyielding, however it departs from autocratic leadership by considering the input of employees — even if they are ranked below company policy.

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