Can the Caregiver Archetype Be a Great Leader?

Continuing Our Series on Boosting Leadership Performance through Archetypes

The caregiver as a leaderThis week, I would like to examine another leadership archetype, the Caregiver/Healer.

First, some traits of this archetype:

  • Facilitates change through service to others
  • Often driven by a desire for positive social change
  • Focused on helping others to grow or transform
  • Applies wisdom with compassion versus using a “command and control” style to achieve results
  • Can occur in any industry or job function

Think beyond the literal title of Caregiver Healer (the doctor or therapist) to understand who may fit this archetype. For example:

  • Gandhi
  • Mother Teresa
  • Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40
  • Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen

In my research, I found this archetype to be closely aligned with the Servant Leadership style. Robert Greenleaf first wrote about this style in an essay published in 1970, and Ken Blanchard’s book “Servant Leadership” is a best-selling classic.

This leadership archetype is a rare (and somewhat unlikely) leader. Take Bill, for example. Bill and Justine were partners in a commercial real estate firm that was thriving right up until the market crash of 2008. Like so many firms, they took a big financial hit in the downturn. Unlike many other companies, they not only survived the hard times but also found a way to thrive. Their resiliency was in large part due to Bill’s leadership style, which exemplifies the Caregiver/Healer.

From the day Bill and Justine founded the business, Bill thought of people who worked with him as his customers. Once Bill and Justine had established a profitable practice, they began to expand. With each new hire, Bill found ingenious ways to build efficient systems and offer support unique to each agent’s distinctive skills. He helped them to thrive and grow.

Bill and Justine took care to hire only the most motivated and skilled agents since neither of them found micromanaging to be natural or desirable. Bill took this a step further. He firmly believed that if he treated each agent like a valued customer, the agents would likewise provide exemplary service to their customer. Therefore, Bill treated agents with respect, customizing the level and type of support offered, and responding rapidly to solve problems and remove obstacles to success.

Bill’s greatest defining trait as a leader was the joy he took in quietly serving the needs of others. During the downturn, he made tough business decisions while remaining compassionate and helping his agents to find new ways to do business.

This leadership archetype doesn’t work in all scenarios. For instance, this archetype is probably unsuited to emergencies requiring rapid decision-making and an authoritative style. Think about pairing with someone who is more direct and decisive, like the Ruler Archetype, in such instances.

As with all leadership archetypes, authenticity is critical. As you seek ways to adapt your leadership style, stay close to the traits and values that are true to yourself.