Which Leadership Archetype are You?

(And how is that working for you?)


Leadership style word artAre you leading your team in the same manner and style you used last year, or when you received your first promotion as a leader? Is your leadership style unchanging and constant, or flexible and evolving?

Consider the benefits of learning about leadership archetypes and applying an adaptive approach as your leadership challenges evolve.

An excellent definition for archetypes comes from author Jon Howard-Spink who says:

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

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries wrote about archetypes in leadership in the Harvard Business Review. He tells us that getting the leadership style and personality match wrong can cause misery for everyone and great damage to a company.

Here are six leadership archetypes that frequently occur in organizations. Each can be highly effective, depending on the needs of your team and company. Do you recognize your leadership style or that of your manager? What steps have you taken to develop your leadership skills or that of the next generation?

65% of executives do not believe their leaders have high-quality, effective development plans.

DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2018


The Ruler uses command and control to drive results. This style fits best when rapid decision-making is required, such as in a crisis or emergency. This style of leader can struggle when inspiration and affiliation are needed to gain buy-in at all levels.

The Hero is on a mission and likely has a clear vision for success. She values persistence and can overcome significant challenges. Experienced and independent thinkers do not always respond well to this style.

The Caregiver is a strong leader in circumstances where conflict resolution and collaboration are required. He values harmony and empathy. The Caregiver may place relationships over facts in decision-making.

The Sage or Mentor excels at tapping into potential and building leaders for the future. She values lifelong learning and seeing others succeed. This style of leader can struggle with micro-managing.

The Explorer thrives on innovation, experimentation, and being first. He values the freedom and individuality required to achieve innovation. This leader typically struggles when the need for structure and process arises.

The Professor or Scientist leads the way to inventions that improve how things are done. She values logic and rational thought. This leader is likely to struggle to form relationships or may seem aloof and distant.

Each of these styles has value, if applied in the right situation. Becoming adaptive and tapping into key aspects of your leadership style can boost performance and improve measurable results.

What actions can you take to identify and activate your leadership style?

  • Remain authentic to your style, even if it means experiencing a learning curve as you find your identity as a leader
  • Be adaptive but remain true to yourself by identifying the leadership styles that match your strengths and values
  • Learn the strengths, weaknesses, and best fit for each leadership style
  • Pair up with team members who have complementary styles and strong values alignment

Take our survey Leadership Style Matters to gain insights into your style and effectiveness as a leader.