Authentic Leadership


Authentic Leadership

Steve Myers, October 4, 2018

Picasso, 1946, Ulysses and sirensDoes typology help leaders to develop greater authenticity, or does it get in the way? Over the last decade or so, those working in organizational development have taken an increasing interest in the topic of authentic leadership. The concept focuses on personal ethical values, integrity in relationships, and building trust and support. When we view authentic leadership from the perspectives of typology and depth psychology, however, it raises difficult questions. Does being an authentic leader mean being true to our type? This might feel authentic, but it can create problems for the leader in communication, relationships, and problem-solving when other people or situations expect the leader to use a different style. Does authentic leadership involve developing and using skills in non-preferences? This might enhance the performance of the leader, but it can feel inauthentic and potentially lead to stress or executive burnout due to spending a lot of time using non-preferences. Does authentic leadership involve finding a role that values the leader’s type so there is congruence between personal preference and demands for performance? That might give the impression of authenticity but it is superficial. It may succeed for a while but it can lead to rigidity in our use of type preferences, making it more difficult to adapt when circumstances change. Does authentic leadership involve laying aside our preferences to manage the polarities that exist in the world around us? Again, this might enhance the leader’s performance but it is not clear how this relates to authenticity. It can seem as if we are achieving something significant but it can also seem that we are sacrificing our own character and authenticity for the greater good.

Theorists' WebEach of the main four topics involved in this debate—authenticity, typology, depth psychology, and leadership—has been looked at separately and sometimes two or three have been found to be related. Among the contributors to this debate are Andrew Samuels (2001), William “Bill” George (2003), Barr and Barr (1989), and John Beebe (1992)—see figure 1. There are two other perspectives that can help bring these topics together into a coherent whole. The first is the overlooked and most important message in Psychological Types —that is, to use Jung’s words from a letter of 1935, ‘the gravamen [that] most readers have not noticed’ (1973, p. 186). This gravamen views typology not as the defining structure of the personality but as a stepping stone towards the transformation of it (Myers, in press). The second perspective is the well-established theory of transformational leadership, which has the potential to reconcile the conflicts and contradictions that arise from the four topics listed above. When we take account of these additional perspectives, they suggest that the authenticity of a leader lies not in typology, which aligns the leader’s personality with one side of a pair of psychological opposites. Rather, authenticity emerges from between the opposites when the leader looks beyond type to develop greater awareness of the collective unconscious.


The Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels (2001) has related leadership to depth psychology in a chapter of Politics on the Couch. In setting the scene, he proscribes several subjects from his discussion, such as crowd psychology, group dynamics, or the analysis of individual leaders. He shows how to apply Winnicott’s concept of good-enough parenting to leadership by focusing on the value of non-heroic leadership and failure. Samuels describes three forms of leadership—erotic, trickster, and sibling—the last of which is “a psychological way to deconstruct the notion of leadership altogether” (p. 96). He does this against the “background of transformative politics” (p. 100), so the concept of transformation is an important part of his argument.

Authenticity has been related to leadership in an influential book by Bill George (2003), a former CEO and professor of management practice at Harvard whose focus is on “greater shareholder value.” His theory is not as commercial or as oriented towards the external world as this phrase implies, because George shifts the emphasis in leadership theory onto the relationship between the inner personality and outer organizational domains. He raises important psychological questions by trying to reconcile the leader’s personality, values, and beliefs with the competing needs of various stakeholders. George’s solution to the various personality and organizational conflicts is to develop the leader in five dimensions—purpose, values, heart, relationships, and self–discipline.

Barr and Barr (1989) related leadership to typology in The Leadership Equation. They advocate that the leader should develop awareness and skills associated with the non-preferred functions. They recognize that this is a difficult task but view it as necessary in order to maximize performance in the role. They close their book with a succinct summary: “The leadership equation involves balancing style for leadership enhancement” (p. 173). This approach has some similarity to George’s because it describes a set of personality dimensions on which the leader needs to develop. However, while for George these dimensions are the same for all leaders, Barr and Barr prioritize them according to our typological structure. Both approaches develop authenticity because they try to align our external role with our internal nature, albeit in slightly different ways.


Pettoruti, 1937, The improviserThe purpose of analytical psychology is adaptation in two directions: “to external life—profession, family, society—and secondly to the vital demands of [our] own nature” (Jung, 1926/1946, ¶ 172). However, the “own nature” that Jung refers to here is neither the personal values discussed by George nor the typology discussed by Barr and Barr. This “own nature” is much deeper. Jung placed the typological functions in the “ectopsychic system” (1935/1976, ¶¶ 88-89 ), which is that part of the psyche used for adaptation to the outer world. He defined extraversion and introversion as ways of reacting to the outer object—extraversion invests libido in it (1921/1971, ¶ 710) and introversion withdraws libido from it (¶ 769). Also, Jung associated the typological functions with the persona (1916/1966, ¶ 505) which is a “segment of the collective psyche” (1928/1966, p. 156). Typological functions do not represent our authentic individuality, they are a collective psychology.

Jung explained the close relation of typology to collectivity in chapter II of Psychological Types. He cited the writings of Schiller to show how developing a dominant function and becoming a type makes us collective. Through our use of the functions, we serve society at the expense of our authentic individual self: “The superior function is as detrimental to the individual as it is valuable to society” (Jung, 1921/1971, ¶ 109). Jung summarized the problem by quoting Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “You must choose between making a man or a citizen, you cannot make both at once” (¶ 134). In other words, you can either be authentic or a leader; you cannot be both. Having described the “type problem,” primarily in chapter II, Jung goes on to outline his solution in chapter V. Although these are long and difficult chapters, Jung became increasingly frustrated that most readers overlooked them. For example, he cited the fact that “not even the elements have been properly understood” (1937/1971, p. xii) as one of the reasons for not revising Psychological Types. And he eventually gave up on laypeople being able to make use of his typological theory (Shamdasani, 2003, p. 87).

What Jung wrote in those chapters is radical. His book is not about the classification or description of a personality but the transformation of it. He suggested this in several places, including the subtitle of the first English translation: “a psychology of individuation” (1921/1923). Psychological Types describes how the personality is transformed so that its structure is no longer defined by typology but by a new function and attitude that appears from between the opposites, from the unconscious. This new and emergent individuality, which is much deeper than typological preference, has its roots in the archetype of the self. Typology is only a stepping stone or gateway on the way to its discovery. Although Jung discussed how to assess whether someone’s type is authentic (1923/1971, ¶ 891), the goal of his theory is a deeper and more unique authenticity. The purpose of individuation is to develop “the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology” (1921/1971, ¶ 757).

Goya, 1816, A Circus Queen Timely AbsurdityJohn Beebe (1992) examined this deeper form of authenticity more than a quarter of a century ago. Although his book uses a different word in the title— Integrity in Depth —he makes clear at the outset that the inspiration for the book is the subject of “authenticity” (p. xix). Beebe’s decision to switch to the word “integrity” points to a depth psychological meaning of authenticity. Using the writings of Cicero as a springboard for his argument, he quoted the contemporary philosopher Robert Grudin to show that authenticity/integrity has three main components: inner harmony, alignment of the inner and outer self; and continuity over time. Beebe suggested that integrity is not about expressing type preferences, because “a psychologically developed individual will have … all four kinds of intelligence—a feeling, a thinking, an intuitive, and a sensation awareness” (p. 22). Rather, it is the dialectic between opposites that leads to integrity (pp. 27–32). Beebe quotes Edinger (1972) to suggest the primary basis for authenticity is in the dialectic between the ego and the self:

Edinger … describes an “ego-Self axis” as the “vital connecting link between ego and Self that ensures the integrity of the ego” (p. 6). It is along this axis that I locate the deeper integrity that I am discussing throughout this book. (Beebe, 1992, p. 137, n. 4)

The Personality Spine(s)

From the perspective of typological theory, the spine of the personality is the relationship between the dominant and inferior functions. Some type theorists regard this spine as virtually the same as the ego-self axis (e.g., Corlett & Millner, 1993, p. 51). However, other writers make a distinction between the two. Angelo Spoto, for example, relates the typological functions primarily to the ego rather than the self (1989, p. 128). When there is development of the dominant and inferior functions, their relationship is the “spine of consciousness” (Beebe, 2017, p. 130)—at least, it can be for a period—but the ego-self axis is the spine of the whole personality. The latter brings the ego into relationship with the total psyche, including all aspects of the unconscious (Edinger, 1972, pp. 3-4).

There can be a stage of development when the dominant-inferior spine and the ego-self axis appear to be the same. At this stage, we can gain “access to the deep integrity of personality [via the] inferior function” (Beebe, 1992, p. 106). However, differentiation or integration of the inferior function does not represent the culmination of the individuation process; it is only the beginning. Individuation starts with the attempt to differentiate the inferior function (Fordham, 1953, pp. 45-46). Differentiating the inferior function has a radical transformative effect on the personality and makes our earlier typological structure irrelevant:

When the fourth function comes up … the whole [conscious] structure collapses … This, then, produces a stage … where everything is neither thinking nor feeling nor sensation nor intuition. Something new comes up, namely, a completely different and new attitude toward life in which one uses all and none of the functions all the time. (von Franz, 1971/1986, pp. 27-28)

After this transformation has taken place, we continue to develop through the dialectic that takes place between the ego and the self. The spine of the personality is no longer seen as the dominant-inferior relationship but the ego-self axis.

Jung illustrated this restructuring of the personality in chapter V of Psychological Types. He saw Spitteler’s 1881 epic poem Prometheus and Epimetheus as being visionary (inspired from the collective unconscious) and as revealing how the Western mind can overcome the conflict of opposites and develop the unique individual. Jung drew several parallels between the poem’s story and the process of psychological transformation. For example, Epimetheus becoming king and Prometheus going into exile stands for (among other things) a typological function becoming dominant and repressing its opposite. By the end of the story, which contains many twists and turns, there has been a significant transformation. Messias, a son of the Angel of the Lord, has become king, Prometheus and Epimetheus have restored their relationship, but the brothers no longer have any position of power. Messias stands for a new function and a new attitude (Jung, 1921/1971, ¶ 459). He is not only sovereign but, because of his divinity, he also acts as a bridge between consciousness and the unconscious.

Moholy-Nagy, 1927, JealousyChapter V of Psychological Types uses typology as an important example of how the problem of opposites can lead to the transformation of the personality, but it is only one example. There are many other opposites in Spitteler’s poem, including conscience and soul, society and the individual, the profane and sacred, good and evil, and others. Spitteler’s story reconciles some of these, through a series of events, but not all of them. The recognition and reconciliation of opposites is an ongoing and never-ending process. In the rest of chapter V, Jung shows how the process of transformation is relevant to an even wider range of opposites. He considers how some forms of religion and poetry try to reconcile and overcome these conflicts through a dialectic that gives both sides parity.

Jung intended Psychological Types to be the layperson’s introduction to the process of transformation through the experience of opposites. However, as a result of readers overlooking the book’s gravamen, by 1935 he had concluded that “lay people could not use [typology] correctly” (Shamdasani, 2003, p. 87). Nevertheless, the theory of transformation it contains is still relevant to many of the conflicts and problems we face today. Psychological Types suggests that we do not become authentic by being true to our type or our values, but that our authentic individuality emerges from between the typological opposites, in the form of a symbol that stands for and becomes a new function and attitude. And that deeper authenticity continues to emerge as we encounter a wide range of other opposites in the same way. In practical terms, it involves withdrawing projections and desisting from exercising preference, to learn to value the opposites within ourselves. In leadership terms, it means adopting an attitude that acknowledges the potential for transformation within the leader and through the relationship between leader and follower. The theory that is closest to Jung in this respect is not George’s concept of authentic leadership but James MacGregor Burns’ transformational leadership.

Transformational Leadership and Analytical Psychology

Burns developed his theory of leadership in the 1970s, and he considered how leadership relates to the topics of authenticity (under the guise of morality) and depth psychology. He rejected psychoanalysis and only looked fleetingly at analytical psychology—citing Jung only to support his rejection of Oedipal theory (Burns, 1978, p. 35). However, Burns had a lot in common with Jung. For example, Jung rejected Freud’s psychoanalysis for the same reason as Burns (its emphasis on Oedipal conflict). Also, Burns saw “Maslow’s theory of motivation [as the best] psychological grounding for a satisfactory theory of leadership” (Seligman, 1980, p. 154). This could have led to common ground between Burns and Jung because Maslow’s self-actualization has significant similarities with the self-realization that comes through individuation. And, like Burns, Jung was “absorbed by the question of leadership” (Samuels, 1993, p. 287).

Both theorists wrote a great deal about the relationship between leadership and morality, which they saw rooted in the transformation of personality and relationships. For example, both Burns and Jung rejected the idea that power involves one person acting upon another. They placed more modern conceptions of power—based on motivation and relationship—at the foundation of a transformative process that is interactive and shared. In analytical psychology, you “can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence” (Jung, 1929/1966, ¶ 163) and the psychotherapeutic process that leads to transformation is a dialectical process between therapist and client (Samuels, Shorter, & Plaut, 1986, pp. 18-19). There is a similar principle in transformational leadership because Burns regarded power in leadership as being based on a “relationship … in which two or more persons tap motivational bases in one another … drawing a vast range of human behaviour into its orbit” (Burns, 1978, p. 15). This enables a mutual transformation to take place between leader and follower: “Transforming … leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” (p. 20, original emphasis).

Petrov-Vodkin, 1912, Bathing the red horseAnother similarity is that the hero myth influenced both Jung’s and Burns’ theories, although they both see the myth as incomplete or inadequate in some way. Burns’ interest in the hero arose through the historical development of the concept of charismatic leadership, for example in work such as that of the sociologist Max Weber. But Burns rejected heroic leadership and turned instead to ideological leadership, where the “leaders embody and personify collective goals … the purposes of the movement” (Burns, 1978, p. 248). Within analytical psychology, Jung’s interest in the hero stemmed from his research into mythology, relating it to both academic study of the human psyche and his own inner hero journey of the creative illness he suffered around the time of the First World War. Jung reinterpreted the hero as having an inner psychic significance and being part of an overall teleological drive towards wholeness and self-realization (Samuels et al., 1986, pp. 66–67). However, in individuation, the hero myth turns into the transformation myth, which is the last stage in his model of development (Neumann, 1954).


There are a couple of significant differences between the two theories. One difference is the importance of consciousness, though the starting point for their understanding of this topic appears to be the same. Both men value consciousness because, for Burns, “transformational leadership … is grounded in conscious choice among real alternatives” (1978, p. 36, original emphasis) and for Jung, a leader needs to be “conscious and responsible” (1949/1977, p. 197). However, in analytical psychology, one of the pillars of consciousness is the quality and nature of its relationship with the unconscious. Although Burns recognized the role of the unconscious in shaping relationships, he did not integrate the concept into his theory. He dismissed consciousness-raising activities as “something of a fad” (1978, p. 41).

The second key difference, related to the first, is the definition of authenticity. Beebe has shown that the deepest form of authenticity in analytical psychology is based on the relationship between the ego and the self within the individual. The criteria to determine whether something is moral or authentic is internal:

Morality is not society’s invention but inherent in the laws of life. It is man acting with awareness of his own moral responsibility to himself that creates culture rather than the other way around. [This principle] may appear to have little or no bearing upon the standards of the collective [yet it can] maintain an equilibrium in society. (Samuels et al., 1986, p. 94)

Burns, however, took an external view, basing his definition of authenticity on an objective view of universal values to which he assumed everyone could subscribe. Burns distinguished authentic from pseudo-transformational leadership by the impact it has on the well-being of the people it affects (1978, p. 426). As a result, “a crucial element for … Burns’ conception of transformational leadership was his firm belief that to be transforming leaders had to be morally uplifting” (Bass & Riggio, 2006, p. 12). This definition is problematic, as people within the field of transformational leadership have acknowledged (p. 233).

Chagall, 1911, I and the villageWe can see one of these difficulties in Burns’ and Jung’s analyses of Hitler. Burns suggested that Hitler transformed Germany, but it was pseudo-transformational because “he failed—utterly—to create for the people of Germany lasting, meaningful opportunities for the pursuit of happiness. … Hitler ruled the German people, but he did not lead them” (1978, p. 29). For Jung, however, Hitler was neither transformational nor pseudo-transformational because, from the perspective of analytical psychology, transformation involves developing deeper self-knowledge through the relation of the ego to the self. There is no evidence of this in Hitler. Rather, his actions and attitudes were characterized by intense projection rather than introspection. In Jung’s view, Hitler did not even rule Germany, he was “simply the exponent of the trend of things” (1938/1977, p. 129). He was a symptom of the movements in the cultural layers of the collective unconscious. This is akin to a tidal bore, which appears to be leading the incoming tide but is merely the product of deeper underlying forces. Just as we must look at the undercurrents to understand the tidal bore, so too we must look at the collective unconscious to understand leaders such as Hitler.

This focus on the unconscious leads into another difference between Burns and Jung, which is how they each view regressive behavior. Jung’s process of individuation consists of cycles involving two movements: progression and regression (Stein, 2006, pp. 1-28). Regression brings primitive and undeveloped instincts into consciousness. For Jung, if this material is viewed subjectively and symbolically, it contains the seeds for transformation and further progression. Regression is therefore an important part of authentic transformation. In Burns’ theory, however, regression is pseudo-transformational because (for a time at least) it produces an effect that is not morally uplifting.


The term “authenticity” will mean different things to different people, depending on their knowledge and attitude. For Bill George, whose primary focus is organizational performance, authenticity is based on the character of the leader and its alignment with the conflicting needs of various shareholders. While this seems to align the inner and outer domains, this understanding of character is relatively superficial when viewed from a depth psychology perspective. Barr and Barr have a similar focus on leadership effectiveness, but they expand the understanding of character to include typology. There are such things as authentic and falsified types, but they are only relevant at a certain stage of development. This form of authenticity is based on the dominant-inferior relationship, which lies within the ectopsychic sphere. It can become obsolete when the deeper level of authenticity that John Beebe identified in 1992 starts to emerge. Andrew Samuels offers a different angle on the subject by considering how to integrate the trickster and failure into leadership. Beebe’s and Samuels’ writings are built on a similar foundation—the deep relation between the ego and the self.

Focusing on the deeper level does not mean that the leader should discard the other aspects of personality. Differing values and typologies are psychological components to consider in both personal and organizational development. But if they become the destination rather than the staging post, it can create problems for both the individual and society. We can see this in Spitteler’s Prometheus and Epimetheus where, for most of the story, King Epimetheus was successful and happy. He and the society he led felt secure because they were guided by social conscience in everything they did. But this conscience led to their eventual downfall because it was one-sided. They had lost contact with soul—the seat of authenticity—and did not realize it. When the first symbol of soul (Pandora’s jewel) appeared to the king, and to the leaders in commerce, education, and religion, they rejected it because they viewed it as abhorrent, disgusting, worthless, and repugnant.

Epimetheus was a leader who was too embedded in his culture to recognize and deal with the opposites. Social conscience and the affirmation of the people sustained and emboldened him, so he did not recognize his one-sidedness and that of the society he led. The people rejected Prometheus as a misfit but, in the final act, it was his leadership that saved the people from total disaster. Jung’s analysis does not extol a Promethean leadership over an Epimethean one. Rather, he uses the story to show the dangers of one-sidedness. In this particular story, the error was in overvaluing social conscience, collective processes, and conscious thinking at the expense of their opposites. But we can overvalue any opposite, as individuals or as a society. This not only leads to one-sidedness but also stops us from recognizing the value of symbols that can help transform our personality and develop our authentic individuality.

Dynamics between Conscious and UnconsciousJust as authenticity for the individual emerges from the dialectic between the ego and the self, so too authentic leadership depends on deep self-knowledge. Authentic leadership is not a static state, nor development towards a set of values. It involves being continually transformed by one’s inner and outer relations, which we can illustrate by applying Jung’s diagram of psychic interactions (Jung, 1946/1966, ¶ 422) to leadership (see figure 2). Authentic leadership involves coming to terms with the complex relations within and between both the leader and the followers.

The diagram does not tell the whole story, however, because there is an important hidden assumption. In many organizations, 360 degree feedback mechanisms help to raise awareness of the leader’s personal unconscious. This might seem a wholly good thing but, from a depth psychology perspective, the unconscious goes much deeper than the personal unconscious, to the collective unconscious. Becoming aware of the collective unconscious is not simply a matter of degree of self-knowledge. There comes a point when a rubicon is crossed, so that awareness of the collective layer leads to radically different consequences, when compared to becoming aware of the personal unconscious alone.

Malevich, 1912, Floor polishersAlthough it may seem counter-intuitive, raising awareness of the personal unconscious makes us more collective. It is only through raising awareness of the collective unconscious that we become more individual and unique (Jung, 1928/1966, ¶ 236). Raising awareness of the personal unconscious may therefore lead to greater harmony within society in the short term. However, as Epimetheus and his people discovered, ignoring the symbols from the collective unconscious runs the risk that culture becomes one-sided, and it could lead to disaster. To avoid that situation, and to develop our authentic individual self, we need to go deeper, into the cultural and phylogenetic layers of the collective unconscious. This involves developing a more symbolic mode of thought and realizing the unique potential that is within each of us. Importantly, from a leadership point of view, we become more aware of what our culture is repressing. This level of awareness enables us to become cultural critics, aware of the unintended consequences of the culture even though we are participating in it. This enables us to bring new material to collective consciousness so that we can progress, as individuals and as a society.

This means, in broad terms, a leader has the choice between two paths of development, depending on how deeply the unconscious is explored. One is to establish a clear set of values through investigation of the personal layer of the unconscious. The other is to look more deeply and symbolically into the layers of the collective unconscious differentiating the self from the typological and other opposites, recognizing and withdrawing projections of archetypes, paying attention to dreams, taking a more symbolic rather than literal attitude, and seeing the influence of psyche in shaping the world around us. This form of dialectic between ego and self can lead to a transformational self-knowledge. The deepest form of authentic individuality is not typological, it is the one that emerges from between the opposites.

Note: Readers can get a 20% discount on Steve Myers’ Myers-Briggs Typology vs Jungian Individuation: Overcoming One-Sidedness in Self and Society, forthcoming in November 2018, by using the code FLR40 on Routledge’s website.


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Steve Myers

Steve Myers

Steve Myers, no relation to Isabel Briggs Myers, holds a Masters in Jungian and Post-Jungian Studies, a Ph.D. in Psychoanalytic Studies, and was the first winner of the David Holt Prize for outstanding student at the University of Essex. He has used Myers-Briggs typology in his commercial consultancy for more than a quarter of a century and is the author of Myers-Briggs Typology vs. Jungian Individuation: Overcoming One-Sidedness in Self and Society. Learn more about Steve by reading his blog, Practical Insights of Analytical Psychology.

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Comments (2)

Steve, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your article and it helped me better contextualize my own views on leadership through a depth psychological lens. Thanks for writing such a superb paper and I am definitely going to read your book. Thank you. I also appreciate the editors providing the discount code. – Kiley

Thank you for your kind comments, Kiley. I’d like to add my thanks to the editors for publishing this paper. They do a lot of work behind the scenes. Also, their questions and comments on the draft helped to improve and sharpen the focus of the paper.

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