Coaching through the lens of 12 Archetypes
What exactly is coaching?
According to the 2016 Global Coaching Study, commissioned by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and undertaken by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), a growing number of individuals and organizations apply coaching approaches and skills outside the context of traditional coaching arrangements. Therefore it employs the term “coaching continuum” to take into account managers, leaders and HR professionals who apply some type of coaching method in the workplace, in addition to dedicated practitioners (not all of whom are formally trained or certified) who earn part or all of their income as internal or external coaches.
The ICF study, which covered 137 countries, is the most ambitious and extensive research effort to date in the coaching field, largely because it makes an unprecedented attempt to capture data from such a broad and heterogeneous group of people across the globe. The executive summary goes as far as acknowledging that there isn’t an officially accepted database or list of individuals on the coaching continuum, but places its total population at an estimated (and arguably conservative) 64,100 worldwide – the full report can be found here.
The trending increase in managers who act as coaches in the workplace is likely to be driven by several factors, one of them being the shift from rigid and sporadic performance evaluations to frequent and impromptu feedback, and the other one being the still evolving transmutation of hierarchies of command and control into collaborative networks of experimentation and creativity. A recent article by the World Economic Forum highlighted the importance of building trust, and empowering staff members to make their own decisions as the core reasons why managers should coach their own employees rather than “restricting” coaching to outside consultants.
Behavioral science rockstars Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis have identified coaching and mentoring as one of the “evidence-based” competencies that are the building blocks of emotional and social intelligence in leadership. And to make matters even more interesting, the executive search firm Egon Zehnder offered its perspective on how corporate leadership development programs are predominantly failing in a Harvard Business Review essay, while indicating the need to give high-potential employees the coaching and support they need to thrive. Moreover, the firm’s research highlights four traits as the most important predictors of how far a leader will be able to progress: curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. But how can someone learn to cultivate these traits? What kind of coaching intervention is suitable for each individual case? What exactly is coaching?
As the cliché goes, “coaching can mean many things” ranging from improving employee productivity and teamwork, to career advice and mentoring, to helping someone gain new insights, navigate problems more effectively and develop integrally as a human being. There is hardly one way of coaching that works for everyone (whether on the giving or receiving end of it); and chances are that each individual may benefit from a variety of methods and styles depending on where they find themselves intellectually, emotionally, somatically or spiritually.
Regardless of context and desired outcomes, however, the one thing that is always beneficial in any kind of coaching relationship is being able to draw upon as many resources as possible, and apply them as needed. One of the most interesting and versatile resources available is the framework of Archetypes based on the work of Swiss psychotherapist Carl G. Jung and adapted by Dr. Carol Pearson. The use of Archetypes is becoming increasingly popular in the process of building conscious organizational cultures and enduring brands, but they are particularly useful for leadership development across all sectors of society and business, as they help us deepen our self-understanding and guide our understanding of others.
Twelve Coaching Archetypes
Jung used the word “Archetype” to refer to the recurring patterns found in universal stories. He proposed that all human beings are guided by the same inner roadmap – and we make sense of our own lives through a common set of beliefs and behaviors. It is no coincidence, then, that we see these stories constantly reflected everywhere across cultures, and that we find them in myth, religion, literature, theatre and film.
Given the broad range of approaches through which the discipline of coaching might show up today in business and non-business environments, perhaps there is value in overlaying the framework of Archetypes to understand its many facets. As way of a disclaimer, it’s important to note that an individual’s coaching method, and personality for that matter, cannot be reduced to one Archetype only, to the exclusion of all the others. But we all tend to have one that plays a central role in guiding our way of being in the world, akin to a flash light that illuminates the path in front of us.
This article attempts to offer just a little taste of how both topics – Archetypes and coaching – might intersect, by portraying the spectrum of coaching skills as they sometimes emerge in movie or TV characters, even if most of them might not necessarily call themselves coaches in their respective roles. In the same vein, each of the characters selected for the purpose of this exploratory exercise brings forth a certain Archetypal energy in the respective video clip, which isn’t necessarily his or her dominant Archetype throughout the entire story or plot.
Whether you are a coach, an organizational leader, or someone considering the support of a coach for your personal growth, some of these examples might resonate more than others (which might actually be an invitation for you to research your own Archetypal profile). However keep in mind that this is simply intended to be a playful and lighthearted exploration, and will hopefully inspire you to reflect creatively on your own individual journey.
RULER – Finds meaning in taking charge and is motivated to lead. Driven to instill and disseminate high standards, and generate environments that stimulate prosperous outcomes. Seeks order, harmony, respect and accountability as core virtues.
Example: Samuel Jackson as Ken Carter in Coach Carter
CAREGIVER – Finds meaning in supporting others, and is motivated to provide reassurance, protection, advice, and an open heart to those in need. Driven to serve the community and foster nurturing relationships. Seeks generosity, patience and compassion as core virtues.
Example: Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side
CREATOR – Finds meaning in self-expression and artistic endeavors, and is motivated to give form to ideas of enduring value. Driven to invent, innovate and create structures that influence culture and society. Seeks dedication, having a unique point of view and a keen sense of aesthetics as core virtues.
Example: Julia Roberts as Katherine Watson in Mona Lisa Smile
SAGE – Finds meaning in questioning everything and is motivated to learn as much as possible for its own sake. Driven to know the truth, develop an expert opinion and keep things in perspective. Seeks objectivity, curiosity, independent thinking and wisdom as core virtues.
Example: Frank Oz as Master Yoda in Star Wars: Episode II
INNOCENT – Finds meaning in enjoying the simple pleasures of life and is motivated to do things right. Driven to seeing the glass half full, developing trust and a sense of inner peace. Seeks goodness, simplicity, wholesomeness and optimism as core virtues.
Example: Pat Morita as Kensuke Miyagi in The Karate Kid
EXPLORER – Finds meaning in pushing boundaries, and is motivated by new experiences and unexpected discoveries. Driven to avoid boredom and entrapment even if it means taking great risks. Seeks autonomy, courage, authenticity, freedom and nonconformity as core virtues.
Example: America Ferrera as Astrid in How to Train your Dragon
LOVER – Finds meaning in deep and life-affirming interpersonal connections, and is motivated by affection, intimacy and pleasure. Driven to attract and cultivate love as a conduit for elevating and expanding the human experience. Seeks vitality, beauty and vulnerability as core virtues.
Example: Robin Williams as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting
EVERYPERSON – Finds meaning in forging a sense of camaraderie and acting as the good neighbor, and is motivated by the acronym WYSIWYG – ”what you see is what you get”. Driven to blend into the group, hold common ground with other ordinary people and be helpful to all. Seeks equality, interdependence, empathy and resilience as core virtues.
Example: Al Pacino as Tony D’Amato in Any Given Sunday
JESTER – Finds meaning in lightening up stressful situations and enjoying the moment, and is motivated by a wicked intellect that comes in handy when speaking the truth to those in power. Driven to transcend convention, perform exuberant antics, and see life as a wild and crazy playground of opportunity. Seeks humor, surprise, boldness, and at times, mischievousness as core virtues.
Example: Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda
REVOLUTIONARY – Finds meaning in challenging the status quo and is motivated to represent the voice that’s had enough. Driven to call out injustices, disrupt what’s not working and overturn the established order while bringing about new outlooks, aspirational change and awakening. Seeks courage, rule breaking and letting go as core virtues.
Example: Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix
HERO – Finds meaning in fighting and slaying the dragon, and is motivated by triumph over adversity and evil. Driven to face difficult challenges, struggle against great odds and complete extraordinary acts of strength. Seeks goal-setting, discipline, competition, self-sacrifice and achievement as core virtues.
Example: Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhodes (a.k.a. “Dr. Mojo”) in Billions
MAGICIAN – Finds meaning in manifesting enormous dreams into reality and is motivated to get results outside of the ordinary rules of life. Driven to view the world through many different lenses, connect to experiences of synchronicity and understand the hidden workings of the universe. Seeks intuition, dynamism and transformation as core virtues.
Example: Christopher Lloyd as Emmett “Doc” Brown in Back to the Future