What are Archetypes?

Archetypes can be defined as universal principles, deep knowing, and core ideas that permeate the human experience everywhere.

Archetypes are also eternal and have a certain more than human quality to them.

We all experience archetypes and they are within and around us constantly. For instance, everyone experiences the archetype of Mother. She appears somehow in your life, even if you were given up for adoption, she is still in your psyche. The perfect mother, the ogre mother, the cruel mother, the stepmother, the fairy-godmother, the absent mother and a myriad of other forms of the archetype exist. And some forms of the archetype exist in every culture around the world. Knowing about the mother archetype gives you the ability to recognize the underlying core idea that everyone experiences. 

Why does learning about Archetypes enhance my life?

There are three main benefits to understanding the archetypes in your life: enrichment, perspective, and tolerance. 

Your life is enriched because you start putting singular archetypal characters together and then create a story. When you know the main archetypes that make up your story you can begin to see how your story is in certain ways a universal one. Now you can connect that story to mythology, the arts, history and many other fields. This helps us make meaning of our stories. When we can make meaning of our lives we are enriched.

An archetypal worldview gives you perspective. Especially when we are caught up in a situation or problem, when we have the ability to see it archetypally you have found another way to see what you have previously only looked at. Often this is how we find answers to our problems.

And finally, your level of tolerance for others can rise because knowing that we are all made of the same building blocks gives us the knowledge that in the end, we are more the same than different and we can become curious about how other peoples and cultures express these archetypes. 

Archetypes in Organizations

Organizations and brands also have underlying archetypes, we call them Archetypes at Work (tm). For instance, there are mother-type organizations who nurture and care for others. The Red Cross is such an organization, as are Starbucks and Nivea. In stark contrast there are martial organizations, such as Nike, Corvette, Smith & Weston, and Red Bull.

If, on an archetypal level, there is incongruence between what a company advertises to be and what it actually is then people in the organization suffer and the system as a whole can fail.

Future-Fit Leadership

It is becoming increasingly clear that the current left brain dominant, logical, analytical, and process-driven leadership approach is, by itself, incapable of successfully navigating the VUCA world rapidly moving towards us (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). Truly effective 21st century leadership will develop an appropriate new balance between these established qualities and more right brain, creative, adaptable, intuitive, and emotionally intelligent methods – that will enable any system to achieve peak performance. Future-fit leaders will need to learn new language and behavior to maximize a whole–brain approach to meet the challenges ahead.

Times are changing at a pace never seen before. The complexity around us is increasing every day. Leaders and companies must adapt to this new reality and consulting, in order to respond to an ever-increasing need for right-brain capacities in leaders and their teams, needs to evolve to include a more archetypally yin, feminine, intuitive and emotionally intelligent way of caring for a system. The consulting metaphor is changing from 'fixing a machine' to 'enabling a living system'.

To successfully align an organization and its culture with these new, fast-changing business realities every company needs a tipping point of transformational leaders. These must have the capacity, courage and integrity necessary to challenge and reimagine the stories and operating assumptions that underpin the organization’s DNA. An Archetypal diagnostic and the ensuing different way of thinking can aid such leaders on a deep and meaningful level. Importantly, this gives an invaluable perspective that is necessary during these times and is an important step to future-fit leadership.