The Leadership Matrix

We worked with a model I have developed myself, called the Leadership Matrix (see below). Of course, I ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’ to create it. The idea of archetypes and archetypal energies has deep roots; in ancient Greek philosophy, in storytelling traditions around the world.

In modern psychology, ‘archetypes’ means Carl Gustav Jung. Jung never explicitly set out a list of archetypes, though many writers have produced lists based on his work.

The concept has been developed in NLP by Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilts, who focus on three archetypal energies:

  • Strength’ (Warrior)
  • Softness’ (Lover)
  • Playfulness’ (Magician)

These are healthy, life-affirming forces, but can have ‘shadow’ sides: inflated, where an excess of the archetype dominates the character, or deflated, where a lack of it weakens the character.

My model has nine different archetypes

My own archetype coaching model has ten individual ‘personalities’. This may seem a lot, but leadership is a complex business. The model has changed and developed over time to encapsulate the key subtleties of leadership; I feel the model truly does justice to the outstanding human achievement that is good leadership.

In this blog I shall talk a bit about three of the archetypes, the three that seemed to affect people the most on the workshop.

“The Boss”

The first, maybe obviously, was The Boss. This brings a powerful warrior-type energyTruman_pass-the-buck.
The Boss is about the ability to take action, to assert boundaries, to protect and warn off predators, to say ‘no’ to time-wasters.

It acts as a reminder that the leader is the final arbiter: ‘The buck stops here’, as the famous sign on the desk of US President Harry Truman read.

The ‘leader’ who lacks this quality isn’t really a leader at all. They fail to provide a sense of power and protection for their team.

The inflated shadow of The Boss is the ‘bully boss’, the tyrant, for whom life becomes an exercise in power over others.

Delegates found this concept helpful: many had experienced ‘bully bosses’ in their past, and had promised themselves that they would never behave in such a way should they ever become a boss.

But this had left them with a sense of weakness, an unwillingness to assert power. Realizing both that true Boss energy was a healthy, essential thing and that the bully boss was a damaged version of this created a way out of this dilemma.

“The Express Train”

The second archetype is what I call The Express Train. This enjoys getting things done (not just doing, though it enjoys this as well). It makes sure a process is finished, a task completed and ends tied up properly. It doesn’t just run at things like the proverbial bull in a china shop: a train, remember, has a planned destination and timetable, but speed is expected of it and it delivers.

This is about enjoying the expression of energy, however when the Express Train ‘pushes too hard’, the Bending Stick ensures that it slows down and doesn’t go off the proverbial ‘rails’.

“The Conductor” – bringing all archetypes together

The third archetype I must mention, though we only touched on it in the workshop this time, is a meta-archetype, one that stands over all the others and knows when to bring one or two to the fore and when to make others take a metaphorical back seat. I call this The Conductor.


Most leadership models correctly state that leadership requires balancing various forces, skills and energies. However few of these theories present a clear model of how you actually do this balancing in practice. In my view, The Conductor is a specific energy and mindset one needs to summon in order to do this balancing.

It involves the ability to stand back and take an objective view – not just of the organization’s needs but of your own mental state – and then to decide on right action based on what you see.

This energy is linked to what we in NLP call disassociation – an interesting topic I shall leave for another blog, as it is worthy of one of its own.

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