Transformational Leadership & The Way Of Individuation

Leadership is the central concept in the study of management. Its centrality centers on the fact that it requires a leader to understand deeply the contingency issues involved in leading, which are the situation, the follower, and the leader’s Self. The starting point in approaching these three issues is the leader herself – Knowing Thy Self is fundamental to understanding a follower and the situations one is facing. These components are dynamically interrelated and this requires that an authentic transformational leader be at the edge of her creative inner energies as they are synchronistically wrapped together in the unfolding leading experience. The objective of this essay is to look into the transformational leadership theory and propose and extension of its current framework to include the ideas of analytical depth psychology as they might operate in a leading/developmental situation.1

There are two leadership theories, a dynamic duel, that complement each other but one is in need of deeper development. The Robin of this duel is transactional leadership (Nelson and Quick, 2011: 405) or the path-goal theory (412), which is well supported by expectance theory and equity theory of motivation (165-170). Daft (2010: 362) suggests that basis of transactional leadership is “the transaction or exchange process between the leader and the followers” and it uses “rules, directions, and incentives.” Wikipedia suggests that these leaders carefully examine the series of transaction needing clarification in order for followers to see the path leading to the goals being sought. The dynamics of this leader-follower relationship is top-down, the follower’s behavior is “shaped” and the “goals being sought” are framed with the organization as the main benefactor. There is no transformation or changing of personal awareness involved. As Pinky points out in this video clip, defending globalization, “fish can’t see water” and this leadership concept is not interested and has no means to see the water we are swimming in.

The second leadership idea, the Batman in our dynamic duel, is transformational leadership and it also has a framework of supporting ideas, however, they are shallow and upon closer analysis still have the organization as the main benefactor. Daft (2010: 362) states that these leaders are “characterized by the ability to bring about significant change in both the follower and the organization.” To accomplish this Daft (363) states that this style uses “qualities such as vision, shared values, and ideas to build relationships,… in order to provide “common ground to enlist the followers in the change process.”  Nelson and Quick (2011: 418 ) suggest that transformational leadership consists of four dimensions, “charisma, individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation.” A close look at these four dimensions (see the Wikipedia entry above) reveals their shallowness – they lack concrete methods and their objective is to again align the individual with the organization’s goals. Wikipedia states this about what it calls the authentic form of transformational leadership, which supports the alignment of followers into organizational tasks:

Enacted in its authentic form, transformational leadership enhances the motivation, morale and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the mission and the collective identity of the organization; being a role model for followers that inspires them; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that optimize their performance.

I do not see transformational leadership as currently configured leading to “significant change in the follower or in an organization” – changes that require addressing the deep issue confronting globalization – a modification to the idea of transformational leadership is needed to address these challenges!2

Reading between the above lines, “enhance motivation” with a “variety of mechanisms” connecting to a “worker’s sense of identity,” gives the impression that this could not be authentic transformational leadership. In fact, Wikipedia suggests that in the ideal form, transformation leadership “creates valuable and positive change in followers and social systems with the end goal of developing followers into leaders.” The question is, “What is the ideal form of transformational leadership?” The ideal form has to begin with an understanding the individual’s intrinsic needs, which Nelson and Quick (2011: 153)3 begin exploring with Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic concept, which these authors say “we concur” with. If we examine these authors’ Protestant Ethic Exercise (154) to see what they are concurring with, for example, Question 2 – “Hard work makes us better people.” Given that the benefits of hard work increasingly going to the owners of capital suggests that Nelson and Quick are supporters of the 1% that Occupy Wall Street protesters are up in arms about – I suspect theirs is a “pedagogy of the privileged”.

Nelson and Quick continue their intrinsic needs section with Sigmund Freud’s important psychoanalytical theory work to uncover the unconscious nature of motivation. Their focus in presenting Freud’s work was properly directed at the “irrational and self-destructive behavior” in the work place like suicide, violence, and deviancy. However, Nelson and Quick fail to extend Freud’s ground-breaking thinking to the creative ideas Carl Jung developed known as analytical psychology and its internal transformational process called individuation, which this video clip defines as the point at which one it able to integrate the opposites within oneself. As you watch this individuation video clip, think about how the relationship being described could be that of a transformational leader and a follower. This video clip Carl Jung – Legacy and Influence, develops the contrast between Freud and Jung that is lacking in Nelson and Quick’s presentation. And Adam Curtis’s video documentary, The Century of the Self, gives us a very sobering perspective of how corporate capitalism has used Freud’s concepts to manipulate society.4

Jung’s Analytical psychology, also known as depth psychology, is the point of departure in order to explore the ideal form of transformational leadership. Aizenstat, founding president of Pacifica Graduate Institute, discusses depth psychology’s contribution to this effort, which he says is a search below the surface of oneself, one’s group, one’s organization, and one’s society in order to understand the unconscious factors influencing behavior (view his definition).

An important point Aizenstat makes is that without the activation and development of our intrinsic unconscious needs, the external framework of transactional theory and the shallow transformational leadership concept have to be seen as manipulative – giving one only a sense of involvement and identity in order to convince the follower to align his/her goal to that of the organization. Giving a follower only a sense of identity is the primary source of individual alienation and fails to access the deep creative energies of one’s imagination.

So, what does it means to be an ideal authentic transformational leader? First, such a leader understands and is living the way of individuation (Jacobi 1965) and has adopted the new depth ethics of Neumann (1969) as further developed by Aziz (1990) – one’s dreams are an important factor in the way of individuation as the new ethic. Scherling (2005) describes preacher Jim Swaggart’s sad and scary failure of misinterpreting that one of his dreams was telling him to “clean up the Church” when it really was telling him to clean up himself. After Swaggarts’s dream and interpretation, the preacher was discovered to have been seeing a prostitute. This kind of failure could have global implication as we wonder about former President Bush’s “messages from God”. What if Bush was also misinterpreting these messages? And this is highly likely for someone who sees evil out there in an “evil triad”. Bush’s projection of evil out onto others is a clear indication that Bush is a person “religious by word only.”

This conclusion is drawn from the fundamental teaching of Jesus, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye with never a thought for the great plank in your own eye?  In order to Love thy neighbor as thy self, one has to learn how to love Thy Self first! Loving one’s enemy and turning the other cheek follow on actualizing Self-love and removing the dark shadow plank in our eye is the first analytical step in the new ethic. Edinger in his interesting book, Ego and Archetype, suggests that these teaching clearly indicate that Christ was the first depth psychologist nineteen hundred years before the unconscious was empirically established by Freud. So, a first step to becoming a transformational leader is to pay respectful attention to one’s dreams.

Steve Myers (2005) presents an interesting view in Jung on leadership, (view Jung on leadership) which states that the unconscious of the followers and the leader interact and unless they are aware of this interaction, the conscious rational direction of their collective efforts will be jeopardized. Nelson and Quick’s (2011) coverage of leadership stresses a rational perspective of leading, when as Myers points out, it is the followers collective unconscious that is influencing the selection and behavior of a leader. Jung’s leadership comments, Myers states, were addressed to national-level leaders, but that they also have relevance in any leadership situation. The authentic transformational leader has to be in-tune with both the conscious and unconscious forces in nature (Capra 1975: The Tao of Physics). This is a central point made in this RAS video clip, Carl Jung – Legacy and Influence, that Jung’s ideas are increasingly relevant because we increasingly live in an interconnected globalizing world. How to read this interconnectivity is central to authentic transformational leadership.



The relevance of Jung’s leadership ideas at the corporate level is addressed by stating that the individuating transformational leader understands that she leads from within the performance appraisal process. If the ideal form of transformation leadership is to create “valuable and positive change in followers and social systems with the end goal of developing followers into leaders,” a leader has to design the performance appraisal process with the same dynamics that Jung sets in meeting with an analysand. A transformational leader has as his goal the development of individuating colleagues, teams, and organizations, – this is the ultimate learning organization that taps into the deep processes of individuation which feeds one’s imagination. An effective learning organization is a key to corporate competitive advantage and the key to national comparative advantage. However, the gains from this increasing competitive/comparative advantage must be shared equitably and this is a key issue facing our society today!

The evolution of the transformational leader paradigm being proposed adds the analytical depth psychology of C.G. Jung, with a focus on the individuation of one’s followers as his/her primary objective. To address this transforming individuation objective, a self-aware leader realizes that his/her success lies in the performance appraisal process (PA). In the PA process, this leader realizes the necessity of establishing authentic trust with his/her followers. This is the same trust established in an analytical psychology session by understanding the processes of transference and countertransference. This Wikipedia entry defines transference as:

A phenomenon in psychoanalysis characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. One definition of transference is “the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person’s childhood.”[1] Another definition is “the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object.”[2] Still another definition is “a reproduction of emotions relating to repressed experiences, esp[ecially] of childhood, and the substitution of another person … for the original object of the repressed impulses.”[3] Transference was first described by Sigmund Freud, who acknowledged its importance for psychoanalysis for a better understanding of the patient’s feelings.

 Countertransference  is defined as:

A redirection of a therapist’s feelings toward a patient, or more generally, as a therapist’s emotional entanglement with a patient. A therapist’s attunement to their own countertransference is nearly as critical as understanding the transference. Not only does this help therapists regulate their emotions in the therapeutic relationship, but it also gives therapists valuable insight into what patients are attempting to elicit in them. For example, a therapist who is sexually attracted to a patient must understand this as countertransference, and look at how the patient may be eliciting this reaction. Once it has been identified, the therapist can ask the patient what their feelings are toward the therapist and explore how they relate to unconscious motivations, desires, or fears.

The following video clip is Jung’s description of these elements operating in a one of his therapy session, which mirrors the process being suggested for the PA session. The clip begins by stating that the “dynamics of an archetypal relationship can exist within ANY relationship” and the ANY other relationship example Jung gives, at the end of the clip, is that of “falling head over heels in love” with someone, only to learn it was a bad choice of partners. As you watch Jung on transference and archetypes think about how this process is unfolding unconsciously as Myers’ indicates above in leading. I suggest this is also going on unconsciously inside any performance appraisal session – and going on unconsciously in all of our interpersonal relationships.


I know the idea of thinking seriously and deeply about Maslow’s self-actualization and Jung’s individuation calls for a paradigm shift in thinking about transformational leadership and the process of performance appraisal. However, if leaders are going to “create valuable and positive change in followers and social systems with the end goal of developing followers into leaders” who themselves are transformational leaders, we have to go deep. When Jung was asked how long before the process of individuation would reach critical mass in the public domain, his response – 600 years. Hillman and Ventura (1992) in We’ve had a hundred years of psychotherapy– and the world’s getting worse paints a gloomy picture of the road ahead, however, we ought to be optimistic!

An important educational issue is an emphasis on critical thinking, which “…refers to higher-order thinking that questions assumptions. Critical thinking is ‘thinking about thinking.’ It is a way of deciding whether a claim is true, false, or sometimes true and sometimes false, or partly true and partly false. The concept is somewhat contested within the field of education due to the multiple possible meanings.”  One contesting issue that I bring to the critical thinking dialogue is that one cannot think critically if one is unaware of how the unconscious forces in the situation, the follower, and in the leader are interacting. When I ask students if they dream, most say yes, however, when I then ask them if they record and analyze their dreams – few if any hands are raised. Why is such an important discovery as that of the unconscious not being addressed in our universities? One begins looking at the unconscious in oneself, then moves to the unconsciousness in one’s groups, organizations, political/economic systems, culture, and finally to the unconsciousness existing in globalization – “seeing the water we are swimming in.” Without seeing the water we cannot think critically about the magnum opus of our time – globalization – and we, as Pinky suggests, will continue to be dominated by “the areas that shape consciousness and define relationships.”

There are significant challenges to implementing the changes being proposed. I suggest that we follow the hyperlinks and view the video clips and Wikipedia links to more fully experience the thesis of this essay. Fromm (1941: 287) addresses the issue of freedom and spontaneity and states that “spontaneous activity is the answer to the problem of freedom …. and is the one way in which man can overcome the terror of aloneness without sacrificing the integrity of his self; for in the spontaneous realization of the self, man unites himself anew with the world – with man, nature, and himself. Love is the foremost component of such spontaneity …. and Work is the other component.” But first, there has to be self love. I found the movie, Don Juan DeMarco, a story of the relationship between an analyst played by Marlon Brando and an analysand played by Johnny Deep to illustrate the dynamics of a 21st Century Transformational Leader and the new depth ethics in action. This scene illustrates the transference/counter-transference at the center of transformational leadership and the way of individuation.


1 This paper has been written with extensive hyperlinks to internet resources that develop and extend the ideas in this essay. To fully appreciate the depth presented, the reader is encouraged to read at least the introduction to the Wikipedia links and to view the Youtube links.
2 The concept of Transformational Leadership was developed by James MacGregor Burns and extended by Chester Bernard.
3 Nelson & Quick (2011) is a popular principles of management textbook.
4 The Century of the Self BBC documentary is in four hour-long segments – they present Freud’s impact on western culture. I call this the 20thCentury of the Self and ask what do you think will be the 21st Century of the Self?


Aziz, R. (1990). C.G. Jung’s psychology of religion and synchronicity. New York: State University of New York Press.

Aziz, R. (2007). The syndetic paradigm: The untrodden path beyond Freud and Jung. New York: State University of New York Press.

Aziz, R. (2008). Democracy and self-organization: The Change of which Barack Obama speaks. New York: State University of New York Press.

Daft, R. L. (2011). The Leadership Experience. Fifth edition (paperback).  South-Western College Publishers.

Fromm, Erich, (1941). Escape from freedom. New York: Avon Books.

Hillman, James and Michael Ventura (1992). We’ve had a hundred years of psychotherapy– and the world’s getting worse. San Francisco: Harper.

Jacobi, J. (1965). The way of individuation. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World Inc.

Myers, S. (2005). Jung and leadership.

Nelson, D.L. and Quick J.C. (2011). Organizational Behavior. USA: South-Western.

Neumann, E. (1969). Depth psychology and a new ethic. Translated by Eugene Rolfe. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Scherling, S.A. (2005). Deep Jesus, Us? High Plains Reader, Vol.12, Iss.12, November 24:5.

Scherling, S.A. (2009). The mathematics of faith. High Plains Reader. Vol.15, Iss.23. February 26: 4. and Dialectic Analytical Man @

Scherling, S.A. (2012). Transformational Leadership & The Way of Individuation. Working Paper presented BUS 439, Concordia College Moorhead MN, April 9, 2013.

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2 Responses to Transformational Leadership & The Way Of Individuation

  1. Pingback: The Bourne and Obama Legacies | Dialectic Analytical Man

  2. Pingback: Individuation of Ethics – Justice | Dialectic Analytical Man

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