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March 2018

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Thriving in a VUCA world with the help of Archetypes

In a world of constant change and disruption (a so-called VUCA world) leaders are required to be able to change and reinvent themselves (Change-Ability) and also to be able to understand, connect and motivate with a wide range of people with different worldviews (Personal Influence).

In that sense leaders need to be able to use different “qualities” within themselves and understand and adapt to different “qualities” of others in a global environment.

In reality all these “qualities” already exist, somewhere deep inside every human. Everyone of us is unique, still reflecting certain “qualities”, certain innate human characteristics, that can be recognized in different cultures, beyond time and place. These “qualities” are vividly represented in the form of Archetypes.

So, what are the Archetypes?

The word “archetype” has its origins in ancient Greek. The first part of the word “arche” means “original” and the second part of the word “-type” means “pattern”. The two words combined refer to an “original pattern”, i.e. a pattern to which various other entities, characters, personalities, concepts are derived. 

Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychologist, used the term archetype, with regard to universal, mythical characters that reside within the collective unconscious. In that sense, archetypes represent the most fundamental, timeless and unique drivers of human motivation. 

The main breakthrough in making archetypes more tangible and easy to grasp happened when Prof. Carol Pearson wrote the book “Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World”.

What are the twelve archetypes?

There have been many different versions of archetypes. There are books referring to 4 core archetypes or 6 archetypes or even 22 of them. In reality there are hundreds of archetypes that have been clustered in categories, to help people make sense of a complex world. The categorization of the 12 archetypes by C. Pearson offers a fairly wide and comprehensive range, which is still simple and memorable. See the image above the 12 different archetypes according to C. Pearson.

What is the practical application of archetypes in Leadership?

We can help you identify your dominant and silent archetypes. Identifying them will help you better understand yourself and how you experience and relate to the world. Becoming familiar with the model of archetypes will help you also to better understand others (your team, your boss, your customers). You will also be able to make more sense of how you and others have preferences around change vs. stability and independence vs. belonging. They will actually equip you with a very deep understanding of how you can increase your Change-Ability and Personal Influence.

I gained a lot of personal insight when I was able to identify that my dominant archetypes are the “innocent and the magician” archetypes. A combination of optimism and a desire for transformation, that allow me to see the bright side of constant change and also act as an enabler of transformation for individuals and organizations.

Would you be curious to know what your dominant archetypes are and what their impact is on you and others? Would you be curious to identify which of the archetypes you need to activate even more to increase your Change-Ability and Personal Influence? Would you be interested in joining one of our open seminars or even organize one for your team? We have created an exciting 1-day & 2-day workshop design, including self-reflection, videos, games, and support sessions.

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Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself

George Bernard Shaw

During recent months, I have been involved in a series of conversations around VUCA, disrupted leadership and agile organisations.

Regardless of what I read or who I speak to, the conclusion is always the same: VUCA is a fact. Digitalisation, AI, globalization, automation are facts. The ever-growing speed of change is a fact. We ARE living in one of the most transcendental times in human history.

But then I think: What is more volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous than our life? How much can we really plan? How many times do we find ourselves saying:

‘On paper this choice seemed absolutely perfect. In retrospect, the illusion of having everything under control had made me unaware  of the likelyhood that everything could go wrong’.

The opposite is equally valid:

Aren’t the best moments in life the unexpected ones? The ones that really change our life drastically – be it the birth of a child, moving to another country or meeting the love of our life?

Let’s be honest: stability feels good. Operating within comfort zones is reassuring.  Following rules is comfortable and easy. But it is also extremely limiting. The margin for mistakes is reduced to the minimum and so is the chance for learning. A sense of false perfection is nurtured which, in turn, reduces the level of openness towards feedback. An illusion of knowing what others should do is fostered together with constant  judgement.

So what can we do to develop that level of readiness towards the unexpected – be it within or beyond ourselves? I don’t have the magic recipe – if I did I would be  feeding exactly what I am trying to avoid.

But I will tell you what I am experimenting with. I am making the conscious choice of disrupting my identity.


By voicing identities that are outside of my comfort zone.

An example?

Given my need to lead change, I am exploring my revolutionary side by challenging the status quo and asking probing questions like: ‘Why are we doing this? Is this (really) going to make a big impact? Is this risky enough? Why do we (always) do it like this? How does this contribute to the legacy I want to leave? What values do I want to make sure are visible in everything

I do?’  

I’ll be honest: I have never felt so assertive!

My next experiment? I have no idea but this is what makes life so cool! Just raise the bar, create yourself and experience what you still don’t know.

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