Your Elder Leader Archetype


The following is an abbreviated table showing some characteristic traits of the Elder Leader Archetype (composed by Debra Breazzano, MA/ LPC, an archetypal psychologist.) Do you recognize these traits (or Shadow traits) in Elder Leaders you have known and in yourself in certain sorts of situations?

The Elder Leader: Archetype of Structure, Leadership and Authority

Alchemical Correlation: Earth originating; coming into being
Astrological Association: January / Capricorn
Mission/Purpose: To provide structure, leadership and authority for the benefit of the group or community
Emotional expression: Values composure rather than display of emotions

Can detach from emotions or emotional expression

Thinks through emotions; rationalizes

Focuses on feelings of respect (respecting others, being respected)

Emotional satisfaction through discipline (with self, with others)

Values commitment and devotion

Shadow characteristics: Critical and judgmental (of self and others)

Intolerant of others with differing beliefs

Autocratic, dictatorial and often corrupt leadership

Rigid; unforgiving

Brutal with discipline

Interests/Involvements: Politics, legal systems, military, education, government, business…positions of authority or responsibility


What–or who–brings out the Leader, and in what mode, in you? Have you felt inhibited in leadership positions because you have been influenced by Leaders with SHADOW characteristics such as a hypercritical or dominating parent or boss?

The Elder Leader archetype is within each of us, and we have internalized this archetype unconsciously from our experience as a collective, recognizable ‘energy’ or persona mode.  Sometimes we first need to work through our reactions to Shadow Leader influences in order to let our positive leadership strengths develop and shine. I can relate to this quite a bit from my own life experience.  For most of my adult life I shied away from engaging with anger either in others or in myself. In leadership roles, where invariably such emotions might be encountered, I found I had a “flight or fight” response. I would avoid confrontation all the more because if forced into an encounter with an anger-expressing person, I could become overly (though briefly) aggressive myself.

Learning about the Elder Leader archetype and exploring its manifestations in my own life history has helped me come to understand that my imbalance around expressions of anger had to do with the fact that my father had a harsh temper and often expressed himself angrily toward me as a force of domination and control.  After reflecting on some of my interactions with my father I have used ‘archetypal dialogue’ to come to a better understanding of how his behavior influenced my own outbreaks of over-assertiveness in stressful situations in reaction to others’ anger.  This has helped me to relax, to pull back from immediate confrontations in order to LISTEN before continuing or advancing in such an encounter. Now I aim to demonstrate understanding of the other point of view without either responding in like mode.  I aim now to arrive at a win-win situation collaboratively with the other person, as I now realize that anger is a common reaction to real stress and real needs.


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I welcome your insights and stories!

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