The 12 archetypes or patterns of behaviour identify the personality makeup and leadership style of chief executive officers (CEOs) and emerging leaders. Most CEOs only display their Warrior but each archetype has its positive and Shadow energies. Michel Nugawela explains how the key to matching personal strengths and competencies to executive roles and challenges is by integrating each of the 12 archetypes and making the ‘unconscious conscious’ – or becoming aware of and transforming the Shadow side.
What is an archetype?
An archetype is a ‘label’ or ‘pattern’ that everyone is familiar with. We’re always labelling people – for example, we attach the ‘survivor’ label to someone who perseveres despite hardship or trauma in their life; the ‘tyrant’ label to an authority figure who is oppressive or cruel; the ‘outlaw’ label to a rebel or nonconformist. We’re used to attaching labels to people; we just don’t realize that we’re also archetyping them (people you meet every day are also archetyping you – they spot your patterns of behaviour and label them).
Each label or pattern or archetype is a mental category that represents a model of behaviour with both positive and negative energies. For example, we label our corporate leaders as Warriors and detect positive and negative patterns in their behaviour. The positive Warrior in the workplace displays mental toughness, professional competence, emotional control, realistic decision-making and motivates his or her colleagues to the highest levels of achievement.
But we also notice a Warrior pattern in the dark side of the archetype. This is the Shadow Warrior who exhibits the obsessive, ruthless and unprincipled need to win by gaining money, power and status over others with an ‘anything goes’ mentality. Lalith Kotelawala scamming his Golden Key depositors is an example of the Shadow Warrior.
How does archetyping help us?
When an archetype is active or dominant in your life, there is a very clear pattern to the way you behave. Once you understand the pattern, you can separate the person – yourself – from the pattern. You understand that the person is not the label – the person is being driven by an unconscious pattern of behaviour that either maximizes their potential or undercuts and limits their life.
The goal of archetyping is to make the ‘unconscious conscious’ – to become conscious of your Shadow or the patterns of behaviour that unconsciously drive your life. When you’re unaware or unconscious of this, you don’t have any choice but to continue behaving as you always have done.
However, when you become conscious of the 12 archetypes and the positive and Shadow behaviours that drive each of them, you become aware or conscious of the core that motivates your perspective, thoughts, feelings and actions. When you become conscious, you immediately recognize your power to choose a new way of behaving.
How does archetyping help CEOs and emerging leaders?
Although we look at each of the archetypes sequentially – Innocent, Orphan, Warrior, Caregiver, Explorer, Lover, Destroyer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Sage and Jester – the full developmental progression from one archetype to another through time isn’t inevitable. In fact, this is why many CEOs get ‘stuck’ in their Warrior archetype until their retirement or even the final day of their life.
They simply fail to integrate other archetypes that are essential to their leadership role and end up seeing the world only in terms of confrontation and rising to challenges – the standard Warrior perspective. This is also a significant cause of executive failure when the context or objective changes – you simply fail to see that the situation has changed and you need to think and behave differently.
Could you provide examples of this?
Take two examples from my work in branding. First, only a handful of Sri Lankan brands have successfully penetrated overseas markets and built global recognition and loyalty. With the exception of Dilmah, none of them are from fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), which is the traditional territory of organisations with best-in-class processes and multi-channel strategies to reach consumers. This is baffling. For example, MAS’s lingerie brand Amante succeed in penetrating the Indian market while every Sri Lankan FMCG brand repeatedly failed.
This inability to perform and build brands in overseas markets tells us a lot about how our home-grown FMCG organisations think and behave. Second, the euphoria that followed the end of the war has not translated into new product and service innovations. Organisations have neither created new categories nor driven new growth. Instead, they continue to engage in head-to-head competition, adopt largely defensive positions with tactical strategies to retain existing market share in existing markets and even where they have attempted to innovate the results have been disappointing or disastrous.
The question is: why continue to operate – to think or behave – in exactly the same way as you did during the war years? The answer is found in archetyping. CEOs, who are ‘stuck’ in their Warrior, are unable to integrate other archetypes – especially their Creator and Magician – which would enable them to shift perspective and understand their potential or limitations in driving profitable growth by developing new innovations, categories and positions in both the domestic and overseas markets.
So, the existing trend is downward. Like any good Warrior or soldier they continue to fight on the frontlines over a shrinking share of the domestic pie. To see beyond this limited picture of price and volume-based competition, they need to integrate and activate their other archetypes.
Can the Warrior archetype also help women leaders?
The Warrior is the basic archetype of masculine psychology and has its roots in the hunter society of our early ancestors. The present day hunt is finding a job and channelling our Warrior energy to the workplace (as well as sports – and in the case of adolescents, to schools). The developmental skills the Warrior teaches us are important for any leader irrespective of their gender but women leaders today can greatly benefit from them because they operate in an aggressive Warrior culture driven by male norms and standards.
Which international CEO best exemplifies the Warrior archetype?
I know of several Sri Lankan CEOs who copy Steve Jobs so I’ll use him as an example of how archetypes should be integrated to maximize our potential and effectiveness. Steve Jobs was a ruthless and controlling Warrior. Under his leadership, Apple had a brutal corporate culture driven by his desire for perfection. But Jobs was also a high-level Creator and Magician – without these archetypes, he would have lacked imagination, creativity and the high-level artistic control and skill that were needed to develop his iProduct innovations.
Sri Lankan CEOs who copy Jobs’ aggressive Warrior behaviour are copying his Warrior archetype, which is only one part of a 12-chapter story. So the lesson is clear: as a leader you cannot remain only a Warrior. You must integrate your other archetypes.
Michel Nugawela has branded and repositioned many of Sri Lanka’s most renowned and respected brands, including Aitken Spence PLC, Hayleys PLC, Dipped Products PLC, Nations Trust Bank PLC, HNB Acuity, Heritance Hotels & Resorts, Lion Lager, Elephant House and Carson Cumberbatch PLC’s regional palm oil businesses in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and India. Michel brings over two decades of entrepreneurial expertise in senior level corporate consulting that includes brand strategy and positioning, brand architecture, new product/service and value proposition development, corporate and brand identity development and packaging design.
His extensive experience also includes understanding, evaluating and determining the role of brands in complex situations such as mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs and diversifications, with related specialization in change strategies across newly rebranded or repositioned organisations that result in new mindsets and behaviours by individuals and teams.
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