Using Archetypes as a Leadership Development Tool

Resources for Managing Change Effectively


leadership development imageWhy should you consider working with archetypes?

Adaptable and effective leadership teams are more important than ever, given the rapid pace of evolving technologies and the complexities of the global business environment.

According to a DDI World Study, organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition.

Leadership development tools (such as Archetypes) that enhance a company’s competitive edge are invaluable in the following ways:

  • Improve the efficiency and clarity of communication
  • Help achieve significant impact and results
  • Help deploy the best leadership style to get results

What are Archetypes?

One of the best definitions I’ve seen on archetypes comes from Jon Howard-Spink, author and advertising expert.

“An archetype is a universally familiar character or situation that transcends time, place, culture, gender and age. It represents an eternal truth.”
~Jon Howard-Spink

Archetypes have been used effectively and memorably to brand companies.

Think The Salvation Army, whose brand is built around the Caregiver archetype, or Rosetta Stone, which is built around the Sage archetype. Today, archetypes are widely recognized in the field of leadership development as well.

How Can Archetypes Help?

I think of archetypes as a valuable framework that can bring a fresh perspective. They can accelerate our understanding and development of effective leadership styles. Using archetypes to build a better leadership toolkit can:

  • Provoke insightful questions about leadership styles and effectiveness
  • Help us understand patterns and themes in behavior and style (without stereotyping)
  • Build common terminology and shared understanding
  • Encourage us to go deeper to understand individual differences
  • Help each of us appreciate our authentic style, yet remain adaptive


This month, I will be writing about the primary leadership archetypes, and how to apply the strengths of each effectively. With each archetype, I will provide well-known examples from literature, film, and TV shows. I will also discuss the benefits and downsides of each leadership archetype, along with examples of the situations where each archetype is best deployed.

As always, your comments, questions, and insights are welcome!