For many years I’ve been fascinated by the concept of archetypes as they provide an efficient and useful shortcut to understanding complex ideas. And while I am no Joseph Campbell, I have spent the last dozen years working with and studying thought leaders and learning about and writing about thought leadership.

During that time, I have identified 7 different (and sometimes overlapping) archetypes that summarize the motivations of the thought leaders that I have met.

  1. Builders: Motivated to build, create, and show a new path forward.
  2. Collaborators: Motivated to create connections between people with the goal of finding and shaping the best solutions for all.
  3. CompetitorsMotivated to be at the top of their niche, to ‘win’.
  4. Constructive ProvocateursMotivated to move forward their agenda, or that of their community.
  5. DefendersMotivated to protect something they believe is important from being changed/undermined.
  6. Destructive ProvocateursMotivated to shake things up; challenge the status quo.
  7. Intellects: Motivated to share their knowledge, research and lessons learned.

Each of these archetypes has different characteristics, behaviors, challenges, and fears and if you click on the links above you’ll see what I’ve learned. I’ve even offered some possible examples in each category (although these are all my own ideas, the individuals’ perspectives may differ.)

When I look back at my own career, I have found that my own motivations have differed over the years. When I was running the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, and getting Springboard (the first venture conference for women) off the ground, I would have characterized myself as primarily a Builder; now I’m more aligned with the Collaborators (although I have always had a lot of Destructive Provocateur characteristics).

This is still a work in progress and I am eager to hear what others have observed or experienced. Where do you see yourself? Has that changed over time?

If you have additional archetypes or examples, please add them in the comments below. I am always learning from you — my faithful newsletter readers.

One caveat. Some people resist categorization – they don’t want to be put in any sort of box. Understood. If the Archetypes are helpful to you, wonderful; if they aren’t, so be it. They are not meant to limit you. If they spark you to think in new ways or open your mind to new reasons that you might want to be a thought leader, then great. But if you don’t see yourself here, don’t let it stop you from moving forward on your own journey to becoming a thought leader.

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