Leader Archetypes: The Enemy of True Leadership

If you work in a large company, or ever have in the past, chances are you’ve run across a Leader Archetype. You know, the kind of leader who people think is more successful than any other.

The guy (and face it, it’s pretty much always a guy) is good-looking, young, but not too young, graduated from the right school, has the right set of experiences, is great at public speaking, is sporty, drives the right kind of car, is married (or not), etcetera, blah, blah, blah. OMG, I’m bored already.

Isn’t everybody?

There’s a reason leader archetypes are archetypes. Chances are good that those sorts of folks have been successful in your organization in the past. And at least some of that has to do with them representing some aspects of the company culture that people love. Or used to love.

It’s good to know, but it shouldn’t limit your ability to be successful. (And if you feel like it absolutely does, go somewhere that your type of leadership can be valued for the fabulous gift that it is.)

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Leader archetypes, while having some elements that are similar across organizations, are culture-specific. Common archetype traits include extroversion, good looks, and being articulate (especially about ideas and people).

Sometimes, you can figure out features of an archetype by imagining the most sophisticated consumer of whatever products or services the organization produces. For software companies, it could be a super-user; for sportswear companies, it could be world-class athletes; for financial services providers, it could be billionaires.

Remember, though — a person who fits the organization’s leader archetype isn’t necessarily a good leader.

If you’re a leader who doesn’t fit your organization’s leader archetype, that’s FANTASTIC! You can be successful with none of or only some of the characteristics of your organization’s archetype.

How? By being a True Leader: leading from your principles, using your strengths, and adding in skills that make every leader better. Because when you’re not authentic and principles-led, people can tell. Which is super uncool, not to mention hard to maintain.

What if you could be your authentic self AND be a great leader? You can. But being authentic doesn’t mean half-assing things and being all ad hoc and off the cuff. If you stand true to your principles and lead from your strengths, you’ll be more authentic. If you focus and dedicate yourself to being a great leader, regardless of what type of leader that is, you’ll be more fulfilled and get better results.

By bringing out the best in yourself, you’ll go far. And be happier on the journey than if you’re trying to live up to a leader archetype that doesn’t represent the real you.

But what if you really ARE your organization’s leader archetype?

Lucky you! But it’s just the beginning. Because being the archetype can get you in the front door, but it certainly doesn’t make you a great leader.

Try being a True Leader — really lead based on what you stand for and what you’re great at, and develop those skills that make good leaders even better, and see where that gets you. I bet a million miles farther than being a symbol would.

Which part of your organization’s leader archetype do you want to kick to the curb? Let us know in the comments below!

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