In many podcast interviews, I often get asked, “What’s the best leadership style?” I answer, “It’s not so much a style we need, but one or more archetypes. Archetypes allow us to fully embody an aspect of leadership that we most need in the moment.” It’s a more genuine way to lead.

The difference between a style and an archetype is the difference between putting on a coat and standing taller: one is an affectation, the other is an amplification.

As Amplifiers, we want to become a better version of ourselves so we can produce bigger – and better – results. We want to make sensible and sensitive decisions. We want to be both wise and compassionate.

The archetype that delivers this in spades is the ELDER.

To understand the archetype, we look first to what we can observe: traits and style. This gives us a window into the heart and soul of the archetype, and how we might fully embody them instead of just mimic them.

Here is an excerpt from my latest multiple award-winning book,People Stuff, about the traits and style of the Elder.

“As an Elder, we need to hold lightly our insights, experience, and judgment, knowing they have value, while also exploring and finding solutions in a collaborative way. In doing so, we are largely guided by the traits of humility, curiosity and care.

Humility: Elders are humbled by experience, not inflated by it. Experience is one of our most valuable assets, if we have learned from it. Experience should teach us that the more we know, the less we know, and the more there is to know.

Curiosity: Curiosity is the cure for arrogance. When we are curious, it leaves us open to new insights and learning. Arrogance deflects learning. When we are arrogant, we think we know best. It blinds us to other opinions and perspectives.

Care: Care is the default intention of an Elder. The Elder cares about the listener, about the impact, about their message. Harmony and peace is our ultimate aspiration and intention. We take care with our words, take care with our relationships, and take care of how we show up and engage. 

While we are guided by these three traits, we also seek to share wisdom. It is a polarity: to express wisdom and insight and sound judgment while also being curious and humble. The approach is Socratic and collaborative, preferring to lead reflection with questions rather than answers.”

How might you practice being more humble, curious, and caring?


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  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.