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Multiple Perspectives and Multiple Truths: Challenges and Opportunities for Professional Coaches

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Pulling Away from the Organizational Role Suction and Archetypes

It is not only the case that leaders are likely to have shadows caste over them, they are also likely, as I noted above, to be pulled into specific roles and to absorb a collective unconscious archetype (such as Kristen experiences with the Great Mother and Joshua experiences with the Great Warrior). As a coach, I can assist my client in assessing the nature and impact of these powerful organizational forces. In general, the strength of role suction and the influence of collective archetypes become greater the higher up a person is in the formal authority structure of an organization. Imposterships reign at the top of an organization! The rule suction and archetypes become more powerful not only because this person has more authority and often more control in the organization, but also because this person often becomes less accessible to many members of the organization (thereby decreasing the impact of reality on the members’ image of the leader).

Given these dynamics, a leader at or near the top of an organization is particularly in need of someone (like a coach) who can be a thoughtful, insightful and candid observer of what’s going on in the organization and of the leader’s own thought processes and emotions. It is very easy for the leader to be drawn into these dynamics—especially if it means that the leader doesn’t have to acknowledge their own internal ironic dynamics. It is much easier to be either the hero or villain than someone who is a bit of both the hero and villain or someone who is sometimes talented and wise and sometimes a bit of a dolt and fool. Imposterships can be the antidote to Hard Irony.

The professional coach can also be of great value in helping her client pull out of the role suction and she can help her client challenge the collective archetype. Typically, it is very difficult for any one member of an organization to cast aside the role to which they have been assigned by other members of the organization (often with their own initial collusion). The role suction usually fulfills an important function in the organization.

Somewhere in the organization there needs to be dreams and visions and somewhere there must be realistic assessments and truth-telling. Somewhere in the organization there needs to be a concern for values and justice, and somewhere there must be a concern for expedience and practicality. The problem is that responsibility for fulfillment of these needs is often assigned to one person or to one small group of people—and this becomes destructive role suction and the constellation of organizational energy and emotions around specific collective archetypes. This becomes a fertile setting for imposterships.

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