Great leaders embrace individuality!

"Freud has enabled man to know himself better. Note the precise words. I do not say he has made the picture more beautiful”. Stefan Zweig, 1933

Ellsworth Kelly

Dark Gray andWhite, 1977-1979

Screenprint andcollage on handmade paper

75.7 x 105.7 cm(29.8 × 41.6 in)

Steps to Better Leadership: How the Process of Individuation Can Help You Become a Better Leader. One of the concepts I often use in my work as a coach is Carl Gustav Jung's concept of individuation.

As an executive coach, I work with aspiring leaders on a daily basis and support them in achieving their personal and professional goals. One of the concepts I often use in my work as a coach is Carl Gustav Jung's concept of individuation. In this article, I would like to explain why this concept is so important for leaders and how it can help them increase their leadership quality.

Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who lived and worked in the 20th century. He was the founder of analytical psychology and developed many concepts and theories that are still used today in psychology and psychotherapy. One of his central concepts is individuation, which he described as the process by which a person finds his own personality and stands out from the crowd.

It is of central importance for managers to recognize and accept themselves as individuals.  Because only if they know and understand themselves, they can lead and motivate their employees. Individuation is a lifelong process that is never complete. But the further leaders progress in this process, the better they can fulfill their own leadership role.

Young managers often learn standard leadership tools, which are then used depending on the situation. This is  justified. However, this mechanistic approach quickly reaches its limits for more complex problems. Therefore, individuation is of central importance, especially for managers in middle and upper management levels.

Individuation does not mean that one has to be a loner or distance oneself from others. On the contrary, it is about finding oneself and living in harmony with one's own values and needs. Only by knowing your own strengths and weaknesses can you improve your leadership skills and develop as a person.

An important step on the way to individuation is self-reflection. Leaders should regularly take the time to reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and actions. One way to do this is to keep a journal or journal. Here they can write down their thoughts and experiences and reflect on them later. The exchange with others can also help to sort and reflect on one's own thoughts.

Another important aspect of individuation is the confrontation with the unconscious. Jung was convinced that every person has unconscious parts that influence his thoughts and actions. These parts can be expressed in dreams, fantasies or symbols. By dealing with the unconscious, leaders can learn to better understand themselves and others.

The conscious process of individuation promotes the development of empathy

By dealing with and accepting their dark sides, leaders can also better understand their employees and deal with them more empathetically. Because only those who accept their own weaknesses can also accept the weaknesses of others and support them to develop further.

The concept of individuation can also help leaders to find a healthy work-life balance. By consciously addressing their own needs, they can prioritize and focus their time and energy on the things that really matter to them. A balanced leader is not only more successful, but also happier and more satisfied.

Another important aspect of individuation is the development of one's own vision and purpose. Leaders should ask themselves what is really important to them and what goals they want to pursue in life. Only those who have a clear vision can inspire and motivate their employees to work together towards a goal.

Two studies suggest that there is a connection between the individuation process and the improvement of leadership quality. Kets de Vries et al. (2014) investigated the relationship between individuation and leadership quality of managers. The study found that individuation was associated with higher leadership quality. In particular, leaders who were at an advanced stage of the individuation process were better able to manage change, motivate their team, and resolve conflicts.

Another study from Lee at al. (2018) found that individuation is associated with higher emotional intelligence in leaders. The leaders who were at an advanced stage of the individuation process were better able to regulate their own emotions and show empathy for the emotions of others. This led to higher employee satisfaction and better performance in the company.

How can I strengthen my individuation?

Here are 7 concrete steps you can put into practice right away.

1. Reflect on your past: Take time to reflect on your past and understand how your experiences shaped you. Reflect on your positive and negative experiences and how they have influenced your values, beliefs, and behaviors.

2. Identify your strengths and weaknesses: Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses. Identify where you are good and where you are struggling. In this way, you can use your strengths and work specifically on your weaknesses.

3. Set clear personal goals: Think about what you want to achieve in life. Define clear goals that support your vision and purpose. This way, you can focus on the things that really matter.

4. Pay attention to your intuition and dreams: they can give you important clues about your inner needs and desires. Take time to meditate or reflect and listen to your inner voice.

5. Learn to deal with your dark sides: Accept that you are not perfect and that you also have negative qualities. This allows you to become a better leader and be more empathetic with your employees.

6. Develop empathy: Try to understand the perspective of others and respond to their needs and desires. Through empathy, you can build a better relationship with your employees and lead them more effectively.

7. Be patient: The process of individuation is a lifelong process that is never truly complete. Be patient with yourself and take time to develop. Through continuous self-reflection and personal development, you can constantly improve your leadership skills.

Jung's concept of individuation may seem abstract and theoretical at first glance, but it has concrete implications for leadership quality. By dealing with themselves, they can identify their own strengths and weaknesses and improve their leadership skills. Individuation also means dealing with the unconscious and dealing with one's own dark sides.

As an executive coach, I support my clients in advancing their own individuation and increasing their leadership quality. This also includes support for self-reflection and dealing with the unconscious. Individuation is a lifelong process that is never complete, but those who engage in this process will be more successful and fulfilling in their leadership role.


Kets de Vries, M. F. R., Korotov, K., & Florent-Treacy, E. (2014). The leader on the couch: A clinical approach to changing people and organizations. John Wiley & Sons.

Lee, S., Lee, Y., & Koo, J. (2018). The relationship between leader's individuation and emotional intelligence. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 39(5), 570-581.