An article by Anke Sommer
Archetype work is part of the personality development work that I practise within the LEADERSHIP Coaching workshop series. On request, I also carry out this work outside the workshop series with you in situ, with managers and teams.
Every archetype contains great personal and social tasks. Troubles that you repeatedly experience in life can often be traced back to the failure to use your archetype. What’s more, you can often understand other people’s reactions in hindsight if you project them onto the archetype. In this way, a repeated reaction reveals the archetype as in a mirror. Viewed from a distance, relationship conflicts can also comprise a counter-action to an opposing archetype. The work with archetypes is also a model for developing leadership skills: by becoming aware of your own alignment, your work is strengthened and enriched by the power of your archetype’s task.
Each of the nine archetypes contains a different form of leadership potential. The task is to find this potential and follow it. There are many possible ways of explaining your own personality to yourself. I am fascinated by the diagram of a particular instrument that is part of our collective knowledge, because it puts things in a nutshell and makes them so clear. However, you need to understand the instrument and in my opinion, you shouldn’t ‘psychologise’ it, because doing so deprives the instrument of its expressive power; the expression is watered down. The instrument I’m referring to is the Enneagram image that has survived for centuries. It gained a bad reputation in many places because it was labelled imprecise and weird. It is sometimes denied the power to determine human types. The Enneagram presents the nine archetypes and images their interconnections.
I use the diagram as a visual aid in my archetype work, which is part of personality development; it gives a visual image of the tensions within every personality and makes them tangible. This gives fresh insight into the personal dilemma contained in each archetype. Suddenly, you understand the conflict and thus also the growth potential linked to the tension. Basically, you need some fundamental knowledge in order to use the instrument successfully; I provide this knowledge by first explaining the Enneagram image from the point of view of process facilitation, calling exclusively on the experience that I have gained with this approach in my archetype work.
An old image and the conclusions derived from it
For this explanation, I use the image with the old terminology. I have deliberately not replaced these titles because, in my opinion, each title clearly expresses the core of the personality type. Each archetype should be seen as gender-neutral; in other words, it can be represented by both men and women. Looking at the model, you see a circle where the nine archetypes are shown. In addition, there’s a triangle with one archetype at each of its three corners: the Saint, Magician, and Champion archetypes. The six others are linked to each other by a hexagon. If we follow the outline from the bottom right, we move from Artist to Mother, to Warrior, to Philosopher, to Fool and finally to Ruler.
If we analyse the image, we can see three levels:
1. The circle (the divine, the unifying)
2. The triangle (the level of the mediator between the worlds)
3. The hexagon (the worldly level)
The circle is the all-encompassing level. Some call it ‘the divine power’; others see it as the symbol of unity. The circle is a positive power that produces development and therefore knowledge that serves the survival and growth of the community at large. All archetypes are located on the circle; it represents the place where all the archetypes can meet in a positive way.
The more the archetypes on the triangle (Saint, Magician and Champion) realise that the only link with the hexagon is the circle that encompasses them all, the more these three groups draw their strength from the triangle. Examining the people that conform to these archetypes, it is striking that they often see things in a different way and think differently to the other six personality groups. By ‘different’ I mean that they draw increasingly on a combination of feeling and seeing. It is noticeable that the archetypes on the triangle are difficult for the outside world to understand, even if they themselves have no idea how they should classify themselves.
The Saint: between isolation and bliss
The striking feature of Saint archetypes is their increased distance, and they often see things on the macro level. They are ostensibly guided by reason. They come across as somewhat remote and find it difficult to feel closeness. Representatives of this group sometimes also see themselves as lifelong bullying victims because others don’t understand them and they themselves have difficulty connecting with others. They feel excluded. If Saints accept their distance, the pain underlying the alleged isolation disappears, so that they can now serve the community at large and share their macro view with a broad public. In a developed stage, their energy is peaceful and harmonious, particularly also for the triangle. The more advanced Saint archetypes are, the more the outside world understands them. Their distance is intrinsic and will stay that way.
The Magician: between healing and destruction
Magician archetypes are rather difficult for others to grasp, because developed Magicians can see things that others can’t. They translate what they perceive and make this comprehensible to others. This is their task. Magicians’ special feature is their dark side. If they don’t accept this then they come across as sinister to the outside world, or impossible to pin down, and are readily slotted into another pigeonhole. It is important for Magicians to perceive this special characteristic first and then to accept it and not allow themselves to be stigmatised. The more humbly they use their expertise for the benefit of the community, the more positively they are seen in the outside world. Magician archetypes therefore have a special access to success. It is not uncommon for their lives to be beset by adversity until they learn to accept this as part of their task. They are either destroyed by this adversity or they grow beyond it, in which case they can use their perceptive skills as a matter of course and for everyone’s benefit.
The Champion: between saving and self-destruction
It is not easy for Champion archetypes to discover their own strengths. They often experience an internal battle against destruction, which looks terrible from the outside. Their biggest personal mission is to have faith in themselves and not to seek support in the outside world. They suffer a great deal in this process and look for stability that is not to be found externally. If Champions have learnt that only they can give themselves stability then they grow beyond their previous boundaries and may be able to master tasks that no one else can handle any longer. The conflict that Champions experience is so intense that their particular skills remain unnoticed as long as they stay trapped in the self-destruction entailed in their doubting and wrestling for support.
The primary task of the triangle archetypes is to create a link between the worldly and the all-encompassing levels. In their work, the triangle connects with all hexagon archetypes through the circle, thus making themselves easier to grasp, and therefore useful for all.
The hexagon realises that it has no link to the triangle. This is particularly difficult for Ruler archetypes to accept, because one of their intrinsic features is absolutism, and they strive for perfection. The hexagon archetypes also have great tasks that are connected to the worldly level. The tasks in the hexagon are conditional on each other (see the alignment of the lines in the sketch).
The Mother: between blessing and curse
In this way mothers, for example, create space to grow and flourish. They are wise and their thoughts are often found in research and literature. Mothers are progressive thinkers and when they are thinking from the heart, their link to the circle, then they grow beyond themselves. Leadership tasks also suit them. The dark side of Mother archetypes is their way of approaching relationships. Relationships quickly turn into a duty and in a non-developed state Mother archetypes remind one of this in that they demand and force relationships and create dependencies. They are not conscious of doing this. If Mothers fail to reach into their hearts, a doorway to the warrior archetype opens up. They fight and ultimately burn out in battle if they fail to find the right path into their true competence, their big hearts full of love and giving. In its developed state, the Mother archetype is the link to the divine nature. This is how they enter the circle.
The Fool: between lightness and distancing
The lightness and high intelligence of the Fool balances out the darkness of the Ruler and has thereby saved the world more than once from the latter’s powerful – and not always good – thoughts and actions. The Fool is often the advisor to a powerful ruler. Fools jump in when Rulers are incapable of leading gently on account of their natural doggedness. They steer the anger released from Rulers towards themselves and thereby put their actions into perspective, as Rulers could have responded with rage, which would be dangerous due to their strength. In this way, the Fool archetype prevents Rulers from falling into a rage. The Fool is the sophisticated mind in the hexagon. If Fools link into the love they bear within themselves then everything happens with amazing ease. If they don’t do this, they become embittered and lose their greatest skill. They succumb to dark thoughts and get rooted in them. They thereby get carried away from the earthly world and are seen as eccentric. Their original joie de vivre disappears. The task of Fools is to link into their love, celebrate their creativity and make this available to the benefit of the community.
The Ruler: between megalomania and creativity
Ruler archetypes bring strength and power together as one and use their imposing force to create greatness, work and habitats, which is an extremely positive outcome. What no one can understand is the spectacle that is taking place inside them. As an archetype, Rulers are unique in being permanently exposed to two forces in parallel. While one force drives them towards greatness and perfection, the other one searches for creative expression, happiness and completeness. The Rulers’ dilemma emerges when they try and focus on one or other of the poles. It is virtually impossible to do. The important thing is that they recognise that their place is in the centre, since only here can Ruler archetypes achieve a connection with the circle. A powerful place emerges around Rulers from the centre outwards, a place full of opportunities, growth and greatness.
The Warrior: between truth and downfall
Despite what we may think, fighting is only one of the aspects that make up Warriors. They have a strong sense of justice and stand up for their ideals. A developed Warrior only considers the hostile approach if there is no other option left for defending their ideals. Their Achilles’ heel is feeling, the heart. If it closes, Warriors can turn cold. In this scenario, the ideal for which they live recedes into the background and is replaced by destructiveness. This makes Warrior archetypes more negative than they really are, as they can cause great damage if their feelings are switched off. On the other hand, if they are in touch with their feelings then Warriors can be loving people who aim to do good in the world. They are strong leaders with astonishing acumen for the right commercial decision. Warriors’ biggest task is to remain in contact with their feelings rather than blindly fighting for ideals, which ultimately leads to a closing down of their feelings.
The Philosopher, between inspiration and ossification
Philosophers are fragile if they don’t find their field. The tension within Philosophers lies between the earthly and spiritual space. They see things from a distance, which often causes them to be confused with the Saint archetype. But unlike Saints, they have no special access to perception. Their task is also very different. Philosophers’ strength lies buried in their thoughts. If they link these with feelings, they grow beyond themselves and can touch the world with their works. If they reject feelings then they become increasingly ossified. Their works lose traction and can no longer be understood by anyone else, either partly or as a whole, at which point they lose themselves too easily in bitterness and suffer as a result. This is their type of battle against themselves. So their task is to come together with their feelings and express their thoughts for the enrichment of others.
The Artist: between negative and positive power
Artists are capable of touching the world like no other archetype. Their gift lies in the fusion of feelings and communication. This is their power, to touch and thereby change. Regardless of whether they opt for the positive and light side, or the negative and dark one, they influence the masses. If they pursue good, then this is what they make public. The same is true if they take the darker path. This is their access to power. If they connect with their hearts, their feelings, then they will achieve a lot of good, as developed Artist archetypes cannot bypass publicity. Even if they work in secret, their words find their way into the public domain. Artists therefore bear a heavy responsibility, as their work influences one or the other side, the good side or the bad, the loving or the destructive side of people. For Artists, the core issue is the decision for the positive or the negative, as this decision determines the direction in which their strength and power works.
I hope I have given you some positive inspiration to think about your basic orientation. I wish you success in linking with your archetype and living out the ability that results from it for the benefit of others. I would be happy to help if you would like me to facilitate your search. I am also happy to work with managers and their staff.