I recently had a massive wake-up call. It both shocked and challenged me. But it also gave me more learning in how I can best support our amazing tribe of non-profit leaders than any gently, gently approach ever could.

It happened like this.

A few weeks ago, an email bounced into my in-box – “I’ve got funding for coaching with you!” it announced. I was delighted. I’d remembered this charity leader from our previous chat to see if coaching might be right for her, and I was excited by what she was doing and by the rapport there seemed to be between us. When it looked like COVID had scuppered her plans, I was naturally disappointed but wished her well in my mind. You can imagine, then, how thrilled I was to hear that we could now go ahead. I jumped on the phone to her, all ready to get started as quickly as we could now that nothing was standing in the way.

Not long after that call I got a second message.  She no longer wanted me as her coach.  It was thoughtfully and kindly written, but what she said stunned me – she’d felt sold to. She felt I’d given her the hard sell despite the fact that she’d already decided she would like to work with me. The upshot was, she no longer felt comfortable going ahead

It hit me right in the stomach. Me? Hard sell? I see my approach as warm and supportive but she had clearly experienced me quite differently. How on earth could that have happened? I was devastated.

After the initial shock had passed, I looked for the learning, in part to ensure I never inadvertently left a potential client feeling that way again.  But also, so that I could use the experience for my own growth and learning.  It took some soul searching, but the answer soon crystallised:

I am a Lover not a Warrior

Okay, so that isn’t quite what it looks like! I don’t send perfumed billet doux to my clients or invite them for romantic weekends in Paris.

So, what does it mean?  I first identified ‘Lover’ as my own key leadership strength in a self-development workshop 18 months or so ago . I learned that ‘Lover’ and ‘Warrior’ stem from a set of 12 archetypes (the universally-shared character types drawn from Jungian psychology.) You may have heard of some of them:

The Lover, who leads with warmth, love and compassion.

The charismatic visionary Magician.

The Hero, who never gives up on the mission.

The Caregiver, deeply supportive of others so they feel safe and valued.

The Ruler who likes to be in charge.

What my discovery means is that if I’m to do my very best work in supporting others, I need to give myself as much ‘self-love’ as I possibly can.  Basically I need to look after myself better. It sounds cheesy but only when I come from that ‘lover’ energy can I connect in with others in a loving, supportive way.

Among the pressures of the pandemic I’d managed to forget to do that.

Yep, pressure can make us all lose touch with our essence. On the day that I spoke to ‘Anna’ (not her real name), I was operating from pretty much empty. I was exhausted after almost a year at home under COVID restrictions, wrestling with my twin roles as a single mum and a leadership coach.  With two teenage daughters cooped up at home and heading into mock GCSEs and ‘A’ levels, things were, to put it mildly, fraught.  I had certainly not been taking care of my ‘inner lover’.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, when I picked up the phone, I went right into ‘warrior’ mode. The strong, powerful, go-getting archetype that gets things done was to the fore.  I totally failed to reconnect with her warmly and compassionately after such a long gap, or show my genuine excitement about doing this valuable work with her. Instead I went marching in with all the detail and contractual stuff. I talked money as though first and foremost I was making a sales pitch, rather than resuming a relationship based on trust and enthusiasm. The result? Anna didn’t feel heard or valued: she felt sold to.

I really get it now. I can see absolutely what happened and I’m changing things.Love is the answer

I’ve started a new programme of looking after myself. Of course, I know self-care is important – I’ve been teaching it for years – but this is way more conscious. I am actively making it a priority because I cannot simply serve anyone else with love if I am empty.

And I’m actively choosing to take a whole lot more care with my Warrior.  Of course, she can come out occasionally when her energy is useful. Perhaps when I’m doing a difficult presentation on the edge of my comfort zone. Or when one of my clients needs the Warrior’s tough conviction to give them a shove. But I hope not to see my warrior woman on a call with a potential client any time soon…

What about you?

Have you any idea what your leadership archetype might be? Perhaps you recognise yourself in the statements above? Maybe you see yourself more in one of the others – Everyperson, Innocent, Rebel, Explorer, Creator, Jester or Sage.

Have a think about which archetypal energy brings out the best in you? What happens when you’re stressed, overworked or exhausted and you go into an energy where you don’t operate at your best? That should give you some clues as to the archetypes which serve you – and the ones that don’t.

Curious to know more?

This experience has been such a powerful reminder to me about the roles these archetypes play, how they can impact leadership style and how we can consciously harness them for the good. So, I thought it would be fun to put together a lunchtime workshop for non-profit leaders so you can find out more. I’ll teach you more about each of the archetypes and share how understanding how they work can transform your leadership.

Sounds like something you’d like to explore? Register your place below.

How to lead from your archetype: A workshop for non-profit leaders

Friday April 9th 1 – 2pm.

Register your place here.

I really look forward to seeing you then!