NOTE: This article was written and published during Obama’s original run for the presidency. I reprint it here for its core message which, in my estimation, had not changed.
Barack Obama carries his gift of leadership with grace and humility, both signs of balance in his guiding archetype — the Leader. In times past, this was called the Ruler but now it is more accurate to say Leader. Back in the day the "Leader" (or Ruler/King) was the one who, having suffered a great wound and subsequent drying up of his kingdom, heard the call for change and accepted the challenge.
In modern times, the Ruler or Leader archetype expresses itself in those who take complete responsibility for their lives and are thus able to wisely lead others. The proverbial kingdom refers to one’s own psyche which can from time to time lie in near ruin and so benefits from the wise ruler. Barack Obama fits this archetype of Leader on the hero’s journey.
The Hero’s Journey
Starting from the abandonment by his father in childhood, through adolescent questioning and dissent, to adult achievements of good works, marriage, family, a Senate seat, he heard the call to take on the Presidency. He is now entering the most daunting stage of the hero’s journey.
Self-Understanding Rules the Day
Fortunately, the times are on his side, for the hero’s final success turns on how well he understands himself and integrates this understanding with his experience of the world. President Obama appears to be a man who understands and is at ease within himself. This appears reflected in the equanimity with which he meets his opponents on the national as well as international scene.
Signs of Wisdom
When the Leader is the dominant archetype, the individual sees him or herself first as a successful sovereign of her own life then is able to turn this success towards others. By keeping the good of the group foremost in mind, the successful leader fulfills personal needs without sacrificing the good of the group.
Answering the Call: Responsibility
Leaders do not live with illusions. A good leader naturally finds his outer world a mirror for his inner world, being realistic about what can and cannot be achieved. Often called upon by others to help gain mastery and balance in the outer kingdom, the sign of a true leader is that people are inspired to stand alongside and offer their services.
Barack Obama: A Man for Our Times
Like the story of Fisher King of the Grail legend, who suffered a mortal wound and whose country lay a wasteland from lack of leadership, Obama has made his own hero's journey bringing himself to wholeness through courage and perseverance. He is now ready to extend his influence into the greater society helping to bring his “kingdom” back to life.
Understanding the Shadow
Every archetype carries its corresponding shadow, and for the Leader archetype, this is no exception. The Shadow Ruler wants control for its own sake, is unwilling to look at what serves the good of others and is caught up only in what will serve him or her. These are the petty tyrants who operate out of mental deficiency, weakness, unreflective of their own actions and how their actions affect others. The misery they inflict has a long tail.
Harmony in the "Kingdom"
In this new Leader, however, there are strong signs of the Leader archetype at its very best. Because of self-understanding any shadow aspect seems duly held in check, not through mere suppression but through those rarer gifts self-awareness brings — wisdom and humility.
With a fierce intention to restore harmony to the "kingdom" on all fronts: domestically, globally and environmentally, President Obama’s journey promises to bring the much needed balm of healing to the world community.
Source: Awakening the Heroes Within; Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World by Carol S. Pearson (1991). San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.