Two articles in the Financial Post caught my attention. The first,…/… highlighted the successful approach a growing company is taking to staff training, and the second article dealt with the power of symbols to motivate. In their own way, each of the articles spoke to a different dimension of Archetypal Leadership.
When people put the words play and learning together, it usually conjures up images of kindergarten students acquiring their ABC’s in fun-filled ways. Wise teachers and parents know that young children learn very effectively in play-based settings (nothing stifles curiosity faster than unnecessarily formal instruction). But as the Quota Co has shown with dramatic results, the element of play also works very well with adult learners. As company owner Earl Robertson puts it “when training is fun, it’s memorable.” It’s also profitable: sales are up by 15% and the company has expanded from its Ontario base to operate in dozens of countries.
The use of play in learning reinforces the foundation of Archetypal Leadership, namely, that we live in two worlds, each with their own operating system. In the passion-based world, play has inherent value as the catalyst for fun, creativity and self-expression. In this world, people (of all ages) can learn without restriction, fear of failure or external judgment.  They are pulled towards compelling new ideas.
In the fear-based world, competition is the driver as are performance standards and other external measures of success. It can develop its own form of self esteem.Neither world is superior and inferior to the other: there is a time for play (e.g. being receptive to new learning) and a time for results (e.g. putting that new learning to work). Two worlds, two operating systems, each with their own contribution to make to human development and effectiveness. As Kim and I point out in our recently posted workbook, an understanding of both worlds and the ability to move between them as necessary is the hallmark of the successful leader.
The second article,, is an overview of a new book by Steve Jobs’ former creative partner, Ken Segall, in which the author identifies the keys to Apple’s extraordinary growth and success (now the largest company in the world). The points Segall raises belong in both the passion-based world (“Thing Casual, Thing Human”) and the fear-based world (“Think Brutal, Think Skeptic”) but it is his “Think Iconic” that caught my attention. Segall is confirming the powerful role symbols play in leadership and human motivation.
Symbols or icons are simple ways to express complex ideas. Here’s the really interesting thing.  Symbols do what text, talk and data cannot: they bypass our conscious mind and reach into our unconscious where our deepest emotions and drives reside. In Apple’s case, it was the deceptively simple ad about two iconic characters, one Cool (the Mac of course) and one Nerdy (everyone else). The symbols of simplicity (“I can do this”) and complexity (“I don’t get it”) resonated with consumers and the rest is, as they say, retail history.
The management of symbols is an integral part of Archetypal Leadership. What leaders say and do, what they pay attention to and what they ignore sends important messages to followers that are received at an unconscious level. These messages can either help (“learning can be fun AND profitable!”) or hinder (“just read the training manual”) the company’s bottom line.