Aspects of Exec.TRAITS Leadership
Carl Jung developed the theory of archetypes as a psychological framework using ancient stories or myths to make connections to the reality of our lives. Classical myth is folklore from thousands of years ago. Myth did not end there, of course. We regularly create mythological characters who help us explain to ourselves how we believe this world of ours works. Characters in films that are larger than life like John Wayne, or those who live in our television sets, like Archie Bunker, a character in All in the Family, describe patterns in our more recent lives.
Classical myth and particularly literature of goddesses and gods help us to see our patterns of behavior that reside in the “collective unconscious”, Jung’s term for the way humans act mostly without thinking about it .
These archetypes and patterns reside deep within each of us affecting the way people think and act. For example, executive positions require behaviors that have traditionally been labeled as naturally male, such as, strategic thinking, cool emotions, competition and use of power. As women moved into these positions they displayed how traditional feminine behaviors influence the success of an organization, like nurturing staff and customers. Further, in some archetypes represented in a few goddesses, like Athena and Artemis, “masculine” characteristics are a part of their normal behavior patterns. Yet, in displaying more masculine behaviors women are often judged as being too aggressive. Frustrations build among women who wonder how to be successful as leaders in the work setting
Looking at this from a male’s perspective, over the last 40 years men have expanded their roles at home, caring for the children, cooking meals and basically taking on more nurturing roles which many report they enjoy. However, with this exploration men found themselves asking how much of this can they do without becoming women, in essence losing “their manhood.” In the work setting, as participative management models showed promise for increased productivity and profit, men have been challenged to let go of dominating, aggressive behaviors in favor of more egalitarian behaviors. Archetypes that might assist men are Apollo and Dionysus in this regard. In the Exec.TRAITS Survey data men’s norms are now equal and at times beyond women’s norms in the feminine personality styles showing the balance they have achieved in their masculine and feminine aspects.
Jung also said that within men and women reside the opposite gender characteristics called the anima and animus. When women displayed what he called masculine characteristics, that is, competition, aggression, strategy, bias for action, they were exercising their animus or masculine self and when men displayed female characteristics, that is, intuition, nurturing, vision, openness, they were exercising their anima. Jungian analysts furthering this anima/animus concept suggest that we regularly project the opposite gender characteristics that we believe about our own anima or animus, on those persons we attract as partners, spouses or other close relationships. In other words, in looking at the characteristics of those close to us, we can discern what we believe subconsciously about our own opposite gender characteristics. If our mate is high in Zeus or Demeter, we may believe these characteristics about our animus or anima, and subsequently project these as the “proper” behaviors of other men or women. With such subconscious beliefs at work, it is hard to change the expectations we have of others in the work place setting.
Jung’s description of the Shadow refers to the repressed, suppressed or unacknowledged aspects of the self. For instance, when one’s archetypal pattern follows Zeus closely s/he will likely have a low Poseidon score indicating that the person has repressed this powerful archetype. In the work setting this can show up in a normally rigid or over controlled executive who blows up emotionally when frustrated.
In knowing which patterns you are currently comfortable displaying and also those patterns that challenge you can encourage you to expand your leadership behavior repertoire. All archetypal patterns have good and difficult sides. You will look at both. You are most likely stronger in some patterns than others. Since all of the patterns are available to us in the collective unconscious, change is possible. You can decide to create or call upon patterns that support you in situations throughout life and work. As leaders, over time our task is to deeply understand ourselves, so that our true personhood, rather than an archetype, interacts with our world. In this place, is increased presence and authenticity. Jung calls this the Self, the organizing principle of the personality.
In our life and careers, families and relationships, we’ve each learned to put on, invite forward, and personify a certain style or styles based on what we believe bring us joy, success and fulfillment.
For more on Jung’s theories, please visit Mini View of Jungian Theories at this link,