Roles and


Gordon Barnhart
515 Terrace Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45220
Fax 513.221.0899

of the



Forms of





The Rewards
Act I: Beginnings
Act II: On the Path
The Tests
Heroes Don’t Go Alone
Act III: Completions




How Journeys Begin. It Matters a Lot
Heeding a Call
Being Thrown Into a Journey
Being Lured Into a Journey
Blundering Into a Journey
The Nature of Thresholds
“Guardians of the Threshold” and
the Refusal of the Journey
“Dancing Around the Threshold”

The Essential Endings
Anticipatory Loss
Sacrifice Vs. Simple Loss
Managing the Stages of Dealing
with Endings

Life Giving Creation and Mastery
New Discoveries
Learning and Mastery
Models of Mastery
The Mastery Force-Field
Learning to “Love the Plateau”
The Inevitable Performance Dips
and Senior Management Psychosis



Encountered Dynamic Tensions
The Known and Unknown
Order and Disorder
Place and Displacement
Connection and Disconnection
Hope and Belief and Doubt and Despair
Excitement, Anticipation, Fear, and Anxiety
Meaning and Loss, or Lack or Meaning
Orientation and Disorientation
Integration and Disintegration





The Five Challenges at the
Heart of the Journey


Guidelines for Leadership
Endings and Creation Overlap


Always Two Journeys for Individuals –
An Internal and an External
We Spiral Through Journeys
Personal Levels of Challenge (PIES)
Ripple Effects
The Scale of Tests
Positive and Negative Tests



The Central Test at the Completion
of Journeys
The Impact on Others and Their Often
Surprising Responses
The Four Classic Responses of Others
Easing the Return – Preparing the Way
Fitting Everything Together – Alignment
and Attunement
Knowledge of the Journey – “Don’t
Leave Home Without It” 


Part One:
Setting The Stage
Knowledge is Power
There are two reasons to pay attention to the realities of the heroic journey.
1. As leaders, this is the path we will travel and
the tests we will encounter – personally and in
our leadership roles. The heroic journey tells
us what we can expect as well what leadership
roles to play and the strategies that make them
work. It also provides guidance in managing
our selves so that we can effectively lead others.

2. This is the path that we will be asking our
followers to travel. We need to be ready to
orient and prepare them for these experiences
so that they can self-manage as well as possible.
By bringing this base of knowledge to our
followers it also helps them understand how we
are leading and makes it easier for them to align
with us and each other.

Knowledge is truly power and power is required from
the beginning to the end in journeys of change. That
power needs to be exercised by a surprisingly large
number of people who are aligned in their efforts.
This is “power with” vs. “power over” as part of the
Leadership Web.
The old phrase, “Power corrupts and absolute power
corrupts absolutely,” is a wise warning, but its opposite is much more in play in the heroic journey. On
journeys of change a lack of power will corrupt lead-

ership efforts and result in an unsuccessful journey.
In the case of knowledge as power, a lack of knowledge about what to expect and what to do can leave
people fearful, hesitant, uncertain, reactive, often
passive, mistrustful and resistant in general.
On the other hand, with sufficient people prepared
well the likely scenario is one of more excitement
than anxiety, more trust than mistrust, a posture of
self-management vs. dependence, an investment
of self vs. withholding, and an increasing sense of
confidence and esprit de corps as challenges are met
and overcome.

Overveiew of
the Heroic

journey is

the story of
The heroic journey provides a trustworthy map
change and
for leaders. It is the story
of change and growth in
growth in its
its healthiest form. It is
about becoming increasingly
competent, mature, resilient,
and able to meet the shifting
challenges of the world. Almost
all cultures have their own versions
of the heroic journey to educate their
members about what’s required for the health of the
community as well as creating meaningful lives. The
journey plays out in three acts.



The Rewards

Act II: On the Path

In addition to achieving increased competencies,
wisdom, resilience and confidence, when we follow
the path of the heroic journey we serve as models
for our groups and infuse those groups with life
energy. Groups and communities become stronger
and better prepared for the next journey. Even when
journeys aren’t completely successful, most of the
rewards can still be realized to a surprisingly large
degree. Most of us can look back on experiences
that weren’t particularly successful, but from
which we grew in important ways.


One of the reasons that the long
term benefits are so important
is that the heroic journey is a
lenge of
cyclical or spiral experience.
As individuals and orgamastery may
nizations we go through
multiple journeys over
be the single big- the course of a lifetime.
Each journey, therefore,
gest, and least
builds on past journeys
and sets the stage for
appreciated, of
future journeys.


the tests on a 

Act I: Beginnings


The classic heroic journey
begins with the crossing of a
threshold, leaving a known world or
comfort zone. We may (a) “heed a call” to
go forth, (b) be thrown into the journey, (c) be lured
in, or (d) blunder in. The first challenge is getting
past what are called the “guardians of the threshold.”
These guardians take the form of such things as inner
doubts or external forces that try to turn us back right
at the beginning. They are the first test and challenge our readiness and worthiness to go forth.
Many journeys have the seeds of failure sown right
at the beginning because we never really leave the
known world – we leave a foot on either side of the
threshold. We can, therefore, never really discover
the new truths, the revelations, and the new life that
are possible. Beginnings matter – a lot.

When we do cross the threshold and move through
the land that lies on the other side we are faced with
tests and trials that usually require new or altered
ways of organizing ourselves in groups, thinking,
relating and acting. What worked before needs to be
honored, but may no longer be effective. Old patterns and approaches may even be counter-productive or dangerous.

The Tests
The heroic journey is a time of endings and beginnings and of the difficult terrain in between. We may
find that our tests are physical, intellectual, emotional,
or even spiritual and that our changes are, consequently, in one or more of those areas. Different
journeys pose different challenges and opportunities
and result in different areas of growth.
The journey will often require letting go of many,
though certainly not all, old ways in order to give
birth to the new. For instance, even a change in one
key process in an organization can require complementary changes in roles, skills, relationships, technologies, physical space or equipment. It can also
affect a person’s sense of identity, place or the meaning and satisfaction found in their work.
A second set of challenges and tests, often the most
deceptively difficult, takes the form of discovering
new ways and persevering in mastering the skills
they require. The challenge of mastery may be the
single biggest, and least appreciated, of the tests
on a journey. A third set of tests will involve dealing
with the uncertainty, occasional disorientation, and
ambiguity of the land between endings and beginnings (“inbetweenity”). Helping people stay oriented
and balanced and connected is central to success in
dealing with this in-between state.

Heroes Don’t Go Alone
Few (if any) of us who cross the threshold have to
face the trials and tests alone. On almost all journeys
there are helpers of various sorts who can provide
direction, tools, challenge, encouragement, and
coaching to better cope with the new environment.



These supporters come in many forms from family
members and colleagues to various advisors and veterans of the heroic journey who share their wisdom
and encouragement. Actively developing a support
network of these helpers is a critical task in “managing ourselves to lead others.”

Act III: Completions
When we successfully meet the challenges of the
journey the final phase is some form of return or
completion. We “return” with the gifts that we have
discovered, whether new knowledge, new abilities,
new ways of working and relating or new technologies. That triggers the final set of challenges.
The hero’s return may be the most difficult part of
all. Whether individually or as a group, we will be
changed. That will require changes in others, for
it will change the nature of relationships and alignments of various kinds. Those changes can ripple
out in many directions and for long distances. The
gifts of the hero can easily threaten the status quo.
Once again, this is as relevant for communities and
organizations as it is for individuals. We must approach the completion of a journey with our eyes
open. In fact, we should have been preparing to deal
with this ripple effect from the middle of the journey
– as soon as we could project the likely ripples of our
emerging changes. 

The tests on a heroic journey for any individual will
be both internal and external and those two types
may be profoundly different. This is why there are
really two journeys to manage. The external journey
will relate to the changes underway in the organization or community. We may be leading or following,
but we will be engaged in all the elements of the
classic heroic journey. We will also see changes in
ourselves as we traverse that external path.
Some external journeys precipitate big internal
journeys of change and some only precipitate little
changes, but there will always be something going
on for us personally. And there will always be opportunities for us to grow and become more mature and
whole – if we pay attention.
Even when the external journey is disappointing or
full of loss, the internal journey may be richly rewarding, particularly in the long run. We define ourselves
by how we respond to the external challenges and
can, therefore, build new skill sets and define our
character and best qualities - even in an unsuccessful
external quest.

Basic Principles of
Heroic Journeys
Although every heroic journey will be unique, there
are some principles that are common to all journeys
and add some interesting dimensions to the basic
story just described. Six principles are presented
here and each will be a factor in every journey. Each
will offer leadership a potential edge in understanding their own experience as well as that of those who
follow and, thus, guidance in how to respond.

1. Always Two Journeys for an
Individual – an Internal and
an External Journey

The external challenges are usually more obvious
and get most of the attention, although they are often
not the most difficult nor the most important tests.
On the other hand, we usually have more influence
over the management of our internal journeys.

2. We Spiral Through Journeys
The life of each individual, organization or community
is made up of many small (and sometimes some very
large) heroic journeys, each testing and developing



us in different ways. The image of the spiral nature
of the heroic journey is important for several reasons:
• The spiral denotes the life-long nature of the
series of heroic journeys in which we are likely
to engage. It does not represent an event or one
journey standing alone. Each journey can be
seen as one more cycle of the spiral, each building on those that have come before and leading
to the next.
• Life doesn’t happen in a straight line. A straight
path through life would be too steep and too
dangerous. Life is just too interesting and twisting as well as difficult. A direct linear path would
be like driving straight up (or down) a mountain.
The spiral path allows a more gradual ascent with
twists and turns.
• The spiral also allows a shifting focus among
the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual
planes precipitated by the longing for wholeness
and integration. It allows any particular journey
to bring progress in one or more areas even
while there may be regression in other areas. It
acknowledges that people change on different
levels at different times. The danger comes
when growth in any particular area is blocked for
too long. A crisis, however, will probably occur
to break the logjam, although the crisis may not
look like a good thing at the time.

3. Personal Levels of Challenge
There are always four potential levels of challenge in
any heroic journey (PIES).
• Our Physical life
• Our Emotional life

• Our Intellectual life
• Our Spiritual life

Some challenges along the journey will be primarily
physical in nature, some intellectual, some emotional,
and some spiritual. Some will be more important
than others and some will be answered more effectively than others. Different journeys will challenge
us on different ways. It is important, however, to remember that the heroic journey can touch all of those
levels and in many ways. 

Physical challenges, for example, can range from
injury or illness to demands for more sustained effort
or extended travel, or exposure to danger and the
required heightened alertness. Physical states can
vary from energized and revitalized to exhausted and
“burned out”. Physical capabilities can be enhanced
or damaged. Over the course of a journey both enhancement and damage can be expected to varying
Intellectual challenges often involve new ways of
thinking or conceptualizing ranging from how communities are organized or interact to how a person
sees her or himself (self image), to new ideas about
the nature of relationships, to how work is organized.
Emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression, despair,
disconnection, disorientation, and alienation can be
mixed with feelings of joy, exhilaration, excitement,
calm, wonder, connection, hope, and inspiration.
Emotions can be fully experienced or repressed and
they can shift rapidly depending on circumstances
and a person’s physical, intellectual, and spiritual
We will be challenged to trust, risk, depend on others,
maintain a sense of hope and confidence, and draw
on our sources of courage. The deepening of emotional competence can be one of the great challenges
and great benefits of the journey.
Taken to its deepest level, the heroic journey is ultimately a spiritual journey. That can be defined in
many ways, but in general terms has to do with connection and relationship beyond “self”, to a connection to a higher being, to the common ground of life,
to the divine, to the universe. Questions of purpose,
meaning, and creativity or generativity also frequently come into play.

4. Ripple Effects
Effects in one area will ripple out through the other
areas. For example
• An external intellectual challenge such as a
change in required management or leadership
style may provide major internal emotional challenges such as fear of ineffectiveness or a loss



of power, a shift in identity or esteem, loss of a
sense of form or order, or simply anxiety about
the unknown.

• Communities are confronting challenges of governance, diversity, economic health, educational
systems and systems of healthcare.

• Similarly, an emotional shock, such as losing a
position or job may result in physical challenges
of increased stress and decreased support, intellectual challenges to rethink careers or family life
styles, and may even result in rethinking one’s
place in the universe or larger scheme of things.

Part of the test in organization-wide or community
change is figuring out how everything fits – re-alignment – after the changes have been made in key
areas. A complementary challenge is determining
which groups and individuals are significantly affected by the changes and how to help them deal with
that impact.

• Challenging community norms may bring challenges on all four levels. Physical safety may be
challenged and emotional well being can easily
be shaken by being threatened or shunned or
simply doubted by others. Intellectual capacity
can be strained trying to figure out what’s going
on, what the desired state might look like, and
what might be required to get there. Spiritually, relationship beyond self may undergo major
challenges and rethinking or may be powerfully

Even in organization and community change where
a great deal of systemic change might be involved,
much of the leadership focus must be on individual
and group change. As organizational life becomes
more fluid, groups must form and reform (often
across many boundaries) and morph to meet the ever
changing requirements. Community and organizational change does not happen without change in a
surprising number of people and the groups in which
they work.

Often, where there is a threat on one level, there
are opportunities on another, although those opportunities may be less obvious. The change in a
person’s leadership style that was noted above may
be experienced with a great deal of fear or anxiety,
but it may also result in increased self-knowledge,
maturity, flexibility and confidence. The loss of a job
may cause a needed re-evaluation of career, lifestyle
or family relationships or even a deeper sense of

That’s One of the Differences Between the Classic
Heroic Stories and Our Current Reality. We now have
whole communities and organizations needing to
go forth on heroic journeys with large numbers of
people taking on the heroic role. The heroic stories
still work, particularly for all those people that are
thrown into journeys, but our stories are the individual journeys on a larger scale.

5. The Scale of Tests

Some tests will appear to be negative, for instance
job loss, illness, loss of a relationship or a decrease in
influence. Some tests, however, will appear in more
positive forms, for instance promotions, marriage,
new work relationships, or increased influence or

The scale of tests – from individual to communityTests can occur on a community, organizational,
group or individual basis (COGI). One of the surprising things about the classic heroic journey is that it
is as valid for group, organizational, or community
change as it is for individual change. It becomes
much more complex, but the pattern holds its value
even with large scale communities.
• The kinds of tests that challenge across an
organization include such things as changes in
strategy, processes, technology, ownership, roles
and relationships, structure, competency requirements, etc.

6. Positive and Negative Tests

It should not be assumed that tests that take a more
negative form will be more difficult or result in less
desirable outcomes. In fact, it is often the case that
the tests that have been the most shocking or traumatizing or caused the biggest initial sense of loss
were the tests that resulted in the most valuable
These principles are very effective guides in pre-



paring for a heroic journey, whether in a leader or
follower role. They are also extremely useful as the
journey progresses to make sense out of the experience – to normalize it – as well as point to where the
opportunities lie, even in the toughest settings.

Part Two: The Heroic
Journey – A Story in
Three Acts
The heroic journey can be seen as a three act play.
Act I requires fast action to achieve the right type of
beginning for the journey. Act II requires perseverance and resilience to “hold the course” over a longer
period of time. And Act III requires the discipline to
not let up before the journey is really complete and
the gains fully realized and not vulnerable to backsliding.

The Five Challenges at the
Heart of the Journey
The nature of the tests we know we will encounter
and their likely impact on our sense of well being
and our ability to perform at high levels lead naturally to five core challenges that we must meet. The
advantage of knowing these challenges is that we
can focus our attention and energy on them with the
confidence that these are the areas that will make the
1. Be the author of the experience to the greatest
extent possible - begins at the beginning with
more challenges throughout the journey. 

land of “inbetweenity” that lies between endings and beginnings.
5. Integrate, deepen, and protect what has
developed - starts early on the journey and
continues for quite a while after the journey
appears to be over.
These are our challenges and they will play out on the
following journey. These challenges will play out differently on each journey. Some journeys will require
a major focus on dealing with endings and loss. Others will come with a major focus on discovery and
mastery. Still others may see a prolonged period of
“inbetweenity. And any mix is possible, which is why
leadership is such an art form and requires that we
continuously evolve personally and professionally.

Act I: Beginnings –
Going Forth
OK – I’m in a leadership posture and ready to be the
author vs. a victim. I’m at the threshold. What can I

How Journeys
Begin – It Matters a Lot
How journeys begin is one of the most deceptively
important issues in the heroic journey and it has major implications for leadership. There are four ways
that heroic journeys can begin and most of us have
each experienced each type in the course of our lives.
These four beginnings are dramatically different.

2. Let go of old ways and relationships that no
longer work and deal with those endings and

• Heed a call to go forth (internal or external voice)

3. Discover and master new ways, developing
new knowledge, new skills, and new qualities
and capabilities or deepening old ones.

• Be lured into a journey

• Be thrown into a journey by others

• Blunder into a journey

4. Manage the uncertainty, unknown,
conflicting emotions, and shifting reality of the



Heeding a Call
We can heed a call to go forth and do something that
needs to be done. The call may be our own voice or
it may be an external voice. We might respond to the
first call or the third or the twentieth. The key characteristic of beginning a journey by heeding a call is
that we begin already in the position of author. It is
our choice to go forth, so we have already adopted a
posture of responsibility. The journey will also have
begun on our timeframe, for the most part.

journey and the challenge for leadership is to help people deal with the
“Crossimpact and, as quickly as possible, get into a posture of
ing threshself-management as well
as appropriately authorolds brings
ing the journey experience. That could
with it risk and
mean joining the web
of leaders with clear
danger, but it also
roles and commitment or simply followbrings the poing as effectively as
tential to fulfill
Responding to the experience of being thrown into a
journey is one of the highest
leverage points that leadership
will have.


Being Thrown Into a Journey
This is currently the most common beginning because of the amount of organizational change that is
taking place. Senior leaders might be heeding a call
that says the organization must go forth, but most
of its people will experience the beginning as being
thrown. The exception is where leadership is skillful enough to communicate the need for going forth,
how it will play out and leadership’s commitment in
such a way that people hear the call and accept it.
To be fair to senior leaders, there are many settings
that simply don’t allow that approach and people are
simply going to feel thrown.
The key characteristic in being thrown is the lack of
authorship and responsibility as well as the frequent
shock and potential immediate losses that occur.
This is a profoundly different way of beginning a

Being Lured Into a Journey
This experience is a blend of heeding a call and being thrown into the journey. A frequent statement
is, “Wait a minute, I thought we were just…” There
are lots of ways this can happen. A frequent one is
implementing a technology that seems to have a limited scope of impact and finding that the ripple affect
involves many more people, roles, relationships, processes and skills than anticipated. What looked like a



journey of one scale suddenly becomes a journey on
a much larger scale.
While less challenging for leadership than where
people are simply thrown into a journey, the responses may be quite similar. This is because people can
feel deceived or surprised by the shift in degree of
challenge pull their commitment back until they feel
like they have figured out this shift in reality.


Common examples for individuals
“Peoare failing at a job and losing it,
being injured or simply colple who
lapsing from chronic stress,
losing a key relationship,
do not finally
flunking out of school or
being arrested. It’s usucross the threshally a sense of being victimized and the key is to
old end up as
avoid taking on a victim
posture and instead go
victims and must
forth to face the demons
and tests directly – with
be rescued by
help. Blundering may
get us out of an unhealthy
reality, but it’s up to us to go
forward or back.
For organizations blunders also come in
many forms, but most of them result from not doing
what obviously needed doing and seeing performance drop to the point where outside forces precipitate the journey. That can be an acquisition, a Board
decision to replace senior management, bankruptcy,
government intervention or the loss of a major market segment that was assumed to be secure. Some
organizations respond heroically and others become

Blundering Into a Journey
Blunders seem to be the default way to begin a
journey. They happen when we really need to go on
a journey of change, but have not heeded a call for
a journey, have not been thrown into such a journey
and haven’t even been lured in. The theory is that,
when we don’t consciously go forth to do what needs
to be done, our unconscious causes us to blunder in
some way that launches us. These are usually painful beginnings, but they are beginnings if we respond
by continuing the journey.



For leadership it is critical to be visible, confident,
engaged and exercise the courage to do what is
required, which will probably involve a good deal of
sacrifice. Leadership must also approach the journey
playing all of the heroic leadership roles and using
all of the core strategies. Leaders may have some
slack when journeys begin with people heeding a call.
They have no slack when journeys begin as a blunder.


“Guardians of the Threshold” and
the Refusal of the Journey
The guardians of the threshold are an essential part
of the journey and pose the first test for the hero.
They are designed to guard the threshold and turn
back anyone who is not ready for the journey. The
demons and beasts that guard the entrance to some
temples are an example of guardians of the threshold.
They are there to turn back anyone unworthy of entering the temple or anyone who is not ready for such
a spiritual experience. Guardians are the first tests,
present the first choices, the first opportunity to be
the author, the first demand for risk, sacrifice, and the
courage to keep going.
The guardians may be internal, such as doubts, fears,
internalized “nay-sayers”, bad memories, etc. They
may also be external guardians, such as a lack of
obvious resources, people whose permission or
cooperation is required, or those who fear the hero’s
going forth and the possible consequences. Just as
more than one threshold may need to be crossed
before a journey is ended, the guardians of the
threshold may show up more than once and in shifting forms.

The Nature of Thresholds
The threshold is the line between the known world
and the unknown. Synonyms include brink, verge,
edge, beginning, commencement, outset, start, and
dawn. Thresholds are heavy with possibility. They
also mark the edge of a comfort zone. Crossing
thresholds brings with it risk and danger, but it also
brings the potential to fulfill important needs.
Sometimes the landing on the other side of a threshold is soft and sometimes it is hard. Sometimes it
feels like a crash landing, particularly if you have
been thrown into a journey by someone else or have
blundered into a journey.

“Dancing Around the Threshold”



The dance around the threshold is an important
concept. The best way to think about it is to take an
aerial view of a snowy landscape and imagine looking at a set of footprints approaching a line in the
What you will not see is a set of footprints that take
a straight path up to and across the threshold. It
doesn’t work that way with the guardians of the
threshold. What the footprints will show is a pattern
of approach and withdrawal, sometimes getting very
close to the threshold before backing off or stopping.
Sometimes the footprints will even cross the threshold a bit before retreating.
This testing allows time to get used to the idea of going forth and time to prepare. Testing the threshold
also provides information about what might be faced
and what preparations might be necessary. This is a
natural pattern and is problematic only when it continues without a final crossing of the threshold and
going forth. Getting thrown into a journey, however,
can short-cut this process, although we may end up
with the problem of people keeping one foot on the
other side of the threshold, even when thrown across
- or scurrying back or freezing where they land.
Although a pattern of approach and withdrawal (or
retreat) is a normal occurrence, it is critical to finally
take the risk to go forth and cross the threshold. People who do not finally cross the threshold end up as
victims and must be rescued by others. Note: Different people have different styles of beginning a heroic
journey. Some are change junkies who are ready to
go at the drop of a hat. Others will resist until the last
moment. The rest fall somewhere in between. It is
important for leaders to recognize who is who and
help each group commit in as healthy a fashion as
possible. The Visionary and the Builder are the two
leadership roles in the beginning and they are joined
by the Catalyst in the trasition to Act II.

Act II:
The Challenge
of Endings
The heroic journey is about leaving known worlds to
confront the mysteries. It entails endings and beginnings, deaths and births, destruction and creation,
unlearning and learning, letting go and taking on/becoming. It is that basic, that exciting, and that difficult.
This section looks at the endings likely to be encountered. It explores basic aspects of these “minideaths” and the process people go through to deal
with such endings. This is fundamental knowledge
for leaders as it makes sense of the experience as
well as providing a great deal of guidance about how
to deal effectively with a tough subject – and one
usually avoided. All of the leadership roles play a part
in dealing with endings, but it is the Guide that plays
the most direct role.

The Essential Endings



Endings may be experienced by people in a wide
range of emotions, from mild discomfort to a profound sense of loss. The key for leadership is having
the courage to find out what that experience is like for
people and then deal with it. For example, if endings
are the closing of a plant where several generations
of families have worked or the ending of jobs that
provide identity and self worth, then the experience
is likely to be acute and the tests for leadership very


Sacrifice vs. Simple Loss
This is a critical distinction. Sacrifice can be defined
as giving up something for something of greater
value. The inevitable losses of the journey are often
easier to accept if they are seen as being in service
of something of more value, for instance a vision or
reason for the journey.

Managing the Stages of Dealing

If, on the other hand, the changes are in learning a
new process and the commensurate skills the experience of losing the known world of the old process
and skill sets may not be particularly daunting. The
challenge for leadership in such a case would be focused on helping people master the new process and
skills rather than dealing with loss.
Change requires endings, which may be large or
small, many or few, but they will occur. They may
be endings that relate to relationships of people to
work, to place, to other people, to organizations, to
communities, to technologies, to beliefs and ideas
and values, etc. They may relate to the loss of certain
aspects of identity, self-esteem, the relevance of
capabilities and skills, loss of position or ability to influence, etc. As with almost all aspects of the heroic
journey losses and endings can and will occur on the
physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual levels.
It is these losses that affect people’s willingness to
invest themselves in the group, organization or community. These endings are required for journeys to
be successful, so it is a matter of attending to them
directly, not avoiding them or pretending that we
can just rush past them. We can rush past them, but
we’ll just be dragging them along, not leaving them

with Endings

Anticipatory Loss
Endings don’t have to be real to create a sense of
loss and grief. Particularly where people don’t feel
“in the know” about what’s planned or going on, they
are likely to go to worst case scenarios and begin
grieving losses that haven’t happened. Those feelings are as real as those attached to actual losses, so
they need to be respected and dealt with.

There are several theories of how we experience
endings that are useful in understanding this part
of the journey. One that is particularly useful is that
of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Her model proposes that
people go through five stages in dealing with the
anticipated or actual death – one’s own death or the
death of a loved one. Although she is addressing the
death of a human being, the five stages fit the reac-



tion to any major ending surprisingly well.
Don’t ignore it and don’t fight it – go with it and take
advantage of it. The stages are natural and each has
its purpose. The leadership challenge is to understand the stages, respect their functions and find
ways to help people gain the value of each stage
so that they naturally move ahead. We can’t control
these stages, but we can certainly dramatically influence them. Denial, anger, and bargaining offer the
greatest opportunities for helping people deal with
endings and loss.

1. Denial
As annoying as denial can be, it is usually not an
indicator of pathological employees or citizens. The
denial stage has a number of functions that help
people move toward accepting the change.
• Provides time to recover from any shock,
particularly if thrown into the journey.
• Provides time to prepare to step up and engage
in self-management and/or taking on a role in the
leadership web.


when people are angry, they are engaged and their
energy is outwardly directed. It may not feel good to
leadership, but the energy is out to be worked with.
Anger can provide the following benefits.
• It is one way to exercise power and not be a
passive-aggressive victim – people are beginning
to try to influence what happens.
• It can be a push for involvement – getting more
information, moving toward productive roles
• It is a good test for leadership in that it
encourages leadership to engage and really
understand the impact of decisions – it is
feedback and that is critical.
• It tests the assumptions and decisions of
leadership and those can be re-affirmed or
altered – leadership may be wrong about some
things or have missed something important.

3. Bargaining

• Tests leadership’s commitment and competence
– leadership either backs off or holds the course
and either deals with the denial wisely or tries to
muscle past it.
• People may have other higher priorities and
denial provides the room for focusing on them
The guidance for leadership is pretty clear. Help
people recover from any initial shocks, help them get
prepared for the journey, hold the course and attend wisely to denial and help people deal with other
priorities to free them to engage fully in the journey.
In denial people’s energy is inwardly directed and not
as available for the journey. Leadership can fight the
denial, using up more energy, or work with it to free

2. Anger
Relatively few leaders are good at dealing with
people’s anger, but it is really a core competency for
leading change. One thing to keep in mind is that

Energy is also outwardly focused in this stage and
people are still engaged with leadership. Bargaining
can be extremely valuable. It can also be extremely
annoying. Often it is both. Bargaining often provides leadership with wonderful opportunities to
further develop patience. It’s a stage full of conversa-



tions with sentence stems such as, “What if…?” and
“How about…?”
• Bargaining helps people figure out the scope of
the change, more about its rationale and more
details about the envisioned desired state and
the journey itself.
• Bargaining provides opportunities to influence
the journey in a variety of ways, from refining
decisions and plans to changing them, to simply
deepening everyone’s understanding of what’s
intended and how it will be accomplished. It’s an
opportunity to become an appropriate author .


sion is usually a sign that people are accepting the
fact that they are experiencing significant losses and
are preparing to let go. Unless the depression is too
acute or is becoming chronic, leadership’s role is
to acknowledge it and respect its purpose and give
people the room to feel some depression. The other
way to help is to simply continue to play the six leadership roles and execute their strategies, which will
move the whole organization and make it easier for
people to come out of their depression.

• As with anger, bargaining requires engagement
with leadership and can lead to defining very
productive roles and actions.
• Bargaining is a time when the classic “win-win”
approach pays dividends. In the course of
bargaining leadership’s and others’ interests can
be clarified, creative options for meeting those
interests can be created and a lot of future
conflicts and sticking points can be prevented.
• Bargaining helps people feel like they are part
of the group and part of the process and not just
outside. Being in the group or out of the group is
the first question for people and bargaining gives
them a way to be included.

4. Depression
This stage is really only a problem in two instances.
One is where it is too strong or acute and affects
a large number of people in that way. The other is
when it goes on for too long, when it is chronic. One
of the reasons for leadership to attend to the anger
and bargaining stages is that, if those are dealt with
well, depression is likely to be more mild and shorter
lived. If not dealt with well, the energy from those
stages can turn inward and end up showing up as
In depression people’s energy is obviously inward, as
with denial, and thus not available for moving ahead.
There are two ways to help with depression. Depres-

5. Acceptance
When people reach the acceptance stage their energy is freed and available for engaging in productive
roles in the journey. They may have been productive
in other stages, but nowhere near the extent that they
are once they reach acceptance. They are ready to
engage the tests, particularly discovery and mastery
and they are available to become an effective part
of the leadership web. The key is to watch for the
energy of acceptance and get people fully engaged
in productive roles as soon as possible, without rushing the process and precipitating setbacks if people



aren’t really ready.

Guidelines for Leadership
There are a few things to keep in mind when facilitating people’s progress through these stages.
• This is not a one-size-fits-all model. The basic
model can be trusted to be in operation, but how
it shows up will vary widely. Different people
experience the stages in different ways
• The key to the value of these stages is in
understanding why they occur – their purpose or
function for an individual.
• This is not a race. The idea is not to get through
all the stages as fast as possible. The idea is to
get the value from each stage for people so that
they are truly free to move ahead and contribute.
• People may skip a phase and the phases may
repeat. That’s not a bad thing. For instance,
people may come out of depression by revisiting
anger or bargaining.

Endings and Creation Overlap
Endings and creation are almost always intertwined,
although the degree of overlap can vary quite a bit.
The ability to grieve losses frees energy for “getting
on with it,” for creating or taking on the new - or
simply moving on down the path. On the other hand,
not dealing with the process of grieving or letting go
not only precludes freeing energy for creation, but
can dramatically diminish the energy available. The
excitement of creation is less likely to occur if its
counterpoint, the energy of grieving, is suppressed
or denied.
Some theories propose that the grieving must be
completed before the creation can really take place.
To a large degree they are true, but they are not true
absolutely. Another way of looking at the experience
is as a back and forth process where initially a good
deal of letting go must take place before much creative energy is free for use. There is a limit, however,
to how much letting go usually happens before some


new beginnings begin to be emerge. There is also
a limit to how much creation can take place unless
the process of letting go continues and that is where
many pitfalls lie.
The danger is that, the excitement of the new masks
the need for continued attention to the endings and
losses or provides a distraction. The difficulty of
dealing with endings easily leaves people vulnerable to such distractions. Put another way, people in
general will take any out from the process of grieving
endings and dealing with the unknown.
Thus, there is a leadership challenge of balancing
attention to letting go with attention to creation, so
that they actually facilitate each other.

Act II: The
Challenges of
Creation and Mastery
This is the most deceptive challenge. It is the challenge that claims more victims than any other. There
are two reasons for this and it is imperative that leaders understand them and aggressively ensure that
they do not undermine the journey.
• One factor is that discovery and mastery are far
more complex and difficult than they seem – and
take far more time and effort than expected.
• Most corporate cultures don’t truly value
mastery and few leaders really challenge these
norms. When it comes to allocating resources,
mastery is usually given far too little and that
oversight comes with a cost.
This challenge seems much more benign than dealing with endings and grief or with the anxiety of the
in-between state. The kind face of mastery, however,
is far more dangerous than the glare of endings or
the concerned face of “inbetweenity.” This is where
the leadership role of the Builder takes center stage.



Life-Giving Creation and Mastery
“Creation” - the balance to death or endings. “Dying to be reborn” is often the dominant theme in the
hero’s journey. Creation is the only force of equal primacy with death in the myths or endings in organizational and community change. The creation may take
place in the same areas as the endings or in other
areas, but it will not take place in any significant ways
without some endings, some losses. Capitalism,
for example, has been called a process of creative
Creation can deceptively difficult. It can also be surprisingly easy and natural. At times it as though the
journey has been to something that has simply been
waiting for us. It doesn’t need to be created because
it was already present, just not yet discovered. At
other times creation can be as difficult and painful
and scary as a problematic pregnancy and birth.


discoveries, they can come in many forms,
such as picking up new skills, ways
of perceiving/ordering the world,
styles of behaving, or managexciteing relationships. As with
discoveries, learning and
ment of cremastery are often a
mixed bag.

ation is less

Learning and mastery
likely to occur if
can be exciting and
they can be difficult
its counterpoint,
and frustrating. They
can lead to the joy of
the energy of
higher levels of understanding and capability,
grieving, is supbut they can also entail
periods of confusion, awkpressed or
wardness, and diminished
capacity. A great deal of learndenied.”
ing begins. Much that begins is
sidetracked, deserted, or rejected along
the way. Mastery is, unfortunately, far too rare
an achievement. That rarity has both individual and
organizational causes.

New Discoveries
Discoveries can come in many forms, for instance
breakthrough “aha’s”, discoveries that integrate or
shift basic paradigms, and affirming or reinforcing
discoveries. Discoveries can be joyful and they can
be anxiety provoking. They can bring things together
and they can blow them apart. They can
organize and they can disorganize.
“DyDiscoveries can connect and they
can disconnect. Most journeys
ing to
will include a mix of discoveries
and they will bring the life-givbe reborn”
ing energy we require.

is often the

theme in the
ney. ”

Learning and

Learning and mastery are
about a great deal, but
jourusually from a distance and theoretically. Mastery can be viewed
as the upper range of learning. Like

The challenges of learning and mastery are, unfortunately, underplayed in the literature on change. One
barrier is simply how much attention, effort and




discipline it takes to master new ways. Part of the
difficulty is that mastery is competing with ongoing
operations for that attention and effort. Much of the
challenge is having the emotional competency to
deal with the unknown and the energy requirements,
setbacks and dips in performance that are natural to
the mastery process - over an extended period of
time. Mastery requires commitment and perseverance on the part of the individual and requires an
environment that supports the mastery process for
more than a few to achieve it.

• Unhealthy competition
It is interesting to note that most of the forces undermining mastery will occur naturally and without
any initiation. They are also immediately in play and
decrease only over time. For example the need for
increased effort and the awkwardness experienced
when learning something new don’t need any help to
appear. And they, along with the need for increased
attention and a lack of sureness don’t delay their arrival. These forces are there from the beginning and
don’t wait for an invitation.

Models of Mastery

On the other hand the forces supporting mastery
either result from leadership initiation or come into
play late in the process. For instance, training, coaching, supportive peers and the necessary equipment
only show up on the supportive side if leadership
acts. Pride in achievement and increased performance only develop after a great deal of effort. It
doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it is.

Looking at a couple of models that relate to mastery will illustrate why mastery is such a central and
deceptively difficult challenge on the heroic journey.
And why it requires so much disciplined attention
from leadership.

The Mastery Force-Field
A simple force-field diagram presents a clear picture of the forces that undermine mastery vs. those
that support it. All we have to do is reflect on what it
was like learning a new language or sport to remember how powerful these forces can be.

Forces Supporting Mastery

This is why so much depends on aggressive leadership action that remains in play for a long time. The
focus of that leadership will need to be on increasing the support factors. That is because, other
than encouragement, there isn’t much leverage for
leadership on the undermining side. Leadership is
the equalizer and will determine whether significant
mastery occurs or whether a lesser effort is made
with the naturally disappointing results that will follow by definition.

• Joy of learning
• Increased capability
• Increased performance for attention
• Pride in achievement
• Training
• Coaching Levels
• Supportive peers
• Equipment, technology, etc.

Forces Undermining Mastery
• Increased conscious attention
• Increased effort
• Competition of current activities for
• Awkwardness
• Uncertainty about performance levels
• Lack of sureness
• Habits don’t work



Learning to “Love the Plateau”
This is a wonderful concept from Mastery by George
Leonard, who has studied the process of mastery,
particularly in the martial arts. It is an important
ethic to adopt for those on a heroic journey because
it normalizes a very challenging aspect of mastery.
That challenge is the periods when, no matter how
hard we try or practice, we just don’t seem to be
making progress. These are the times when it is very
easy to lose heart and leave the journey. In its simplest form “learning to love the plateau” has these
• As we begin the process of mastery we often
experience a spurt of increased ability that feels
good and encourages more effort.


The Inevitable Performance Dips
and Senior Management Psychosis
On all journeys there are dips in performance at
certain points. These natural performance dips may
be individual, group or organization-wide. Journeys
are designed to reach sustainable improvements in
performance, but that improvement doesn’t happen
immediately. Journeys of change come with the
dual challenge to continue ongoing operations while
changing those operations. It sometimes feels like
rebuilding the plane in flight. As organizations and
communities change they are inevitably thrown out
of alignment to some degree for some period of time
at the same time that increased effort is required.
That combination usually results in a decrease in

• At points following such a spurt we hit a plateau
where our ability doesn’t seem to improve
despite continued or even increased effort.
• As that competence plateau extends it becomes
increasingly easy to become discouraged and
lose heart.
• Losing heart leaves us vulnerable to the forces
undermining the mastery process and we may
get stuck or drop out.
• If we persevere and focus on “right practice” vs.
outcomes, we eventually experience another spurt
of competence.
• It is usually impossible to see that spurt coming,
which is why perseverance and “right practice”
are so important.
• The pattern repeats. Hopefully people have
learned from the early plateaus and are able to
respond better as the journey progresses.
The job of leadership is to teach people about this
process and what to expect as well as provide the
modeling and encouragement to “hold the course”
and not give up. One of the traps leaders must avoid
is the trap of management psychosis brought on by
the inevitable performance dips that happen with
improvememt efforts of any significance.

Such performance dips need to be managed, but
they need to be managed wisely and this is where
journeys can get into trouble. Managers, particularly
senior managers, are vulnerable to a form of insanity, which leads them to expect immediate improvements from the changes that have begun. The realities of the journey – the challenges of letting go of
old ways, mastering new ways and dealing with the
in-between state – seem to get lost and unrealistic
and damaging expectations sneak in. This is partly a
response to management’s own fears and anxieties
about performance and the success of the journey. It
is also a way to try to avoid the hard work of leading
a journey and being worthy of followers.
A mark of good leadership is an acceptance of the
inevitable performance dips along with a focus on
how to minimize the depth of the dip and shorten its




Mastery - One of life’s great
pleasures and a gift
Achieving a sense of mastery is one of life’s great
pleasures and it is a gift to any organization or community. But, it takes an investment of time and energy by us as well as discipline and perseverance to
overcome the natural barriers. Those characteristics
must be evident in the individuals on the journey and
must be mirrored by leadership.

Act II: The Challenge
of Being In-Between
This is the land where a good deal of letting go or
endings have taken place, but new creation, new
beginnings, births or rebirths have not yet been
completed. The unknown is really the not yet known.
It may be a blank or uncertain or ambiguous or evershifting, but it is not certain or constant. Although
that is the natural state, it is uncomfortable and anxiety producing. Living with the unknown is one of the
most difficult aspects of the journey, but retreating
from it is a retreat to false security in a false world.
That is a very constricted world and often much more
dangerous that the unknown. The in-between state
is an essential, but often uncomfortable, place to be.
It is essential because it provides a “creative void”, in
which significant change can happen.
Significant leaps of innovation and creativity are
much more likely to happen in this in-between state
than in instances where it is avoided or short circuited by leaping to the first replacement that appears. Not only does this in-between land provide
an environment for greater creativity, it also provides
more time and space for people to truly let go of the
old and be ready to embrace the new. As with ending,
people’s ability to manage in this in-between state
will be supported by all the leadership roles, but the
Guide will be most directly involved.

Dynamic Tensions

This “inbetweenity” is characterized by questions
of balance, rhythm, dynamic tension, and paradox.
For instance, there will always be a tension between
order and disorder. Disorder is part of the natural
process of going from one state of order to a new order. It is difficult to be in a state of disorder too much,
but it is dangerous to never be in disorder if you live
in a world that demands change.
Similarly, there is a natural and dynamic tension between being connected and being disconnected, just
as there is between being oriented and being disoriented or having a sense of place and losing a sense
of place. They are all natural partners in the change
process and will coexist and be found consistently
along the path.
These dynamic tensions are not to be avoided, but
rather understood and managed as well as possible.
That is an art form and each person must find their
own rhythm (which may change over the course of
the journey). Some people are more at ease with
these dynamic tensions and can allow them to play
out for longer periods of time. Others have a great
deal of trouble with the lack of certainty and resolution and are vulnerable to actions that shorten the
experience of these tests at the expense of success
on the journey.
Tension can be creative or destructive, but we know
it will exist in a number of forms on the journey. The
challenge is to manage these dynamic tensions in our
own experience and help others to do so also.

Top Dynamic Tensions

1. Known
2. Order
3. Place
4. Connection
5. Hope/Belief
6. Excitement/Anticipation
7. Meaning
8. Orientation
9. Integration

Lack of Meaning

Obviously we can’t stay on the left side of the chart
and create the desired changes. On the other hand,
we don’t want to be on the right side of the chart for



too many of these dynamic tensions at the same time
or for too long. The trick is living in between in a,
hopefully, creative tension that gives birth to the new
reality we seek. This is where the emotional competence of leaders can be sorely tested.


order and a transition to a new order. In between is
the inevitable disorder, sometimes defined by such
terms as “confusion, irregularity, disturbance, interruption of the normal functions”, even disease. As
a verb “disorder” is even more unsettling; “to break
the order of, to derange, to throw into confusion, to
It is no wonder that order is so important to a sense
of comfort or well-being. Order, in some dictionaries,
has over twenty definitions as a noun. That is an indication of its importance to individuals, groups, organizations and communities. One definition of order
is “a sense of peace and serenity”. Other definitions
include “a fixed or definite plan; “a state or condition
in which everything is in its right place and functioning properly”, “an established method or system”.

3. Place and Displacement

1. The Known and Unknown
Crossing the threshold means leaving a known world
for a world of varying degrees of unknown. Not
everything will change, but a great deal may. Part
of the challenge is finding out what isn’t changing,
where continuity still exists. The greater challenge,
however, is in accepting the unknown and exploring
it for its possibilities. Defending against its threats
is also wise, but rarely should it be the dominant
posture assumed.
Dealing with the unknown is required for change and
adaptation - for survival in some cases. As with most
of the issues in this section, this is not an “either-or”
issue. It is a question of respecting and confronting
the unknown without being overwhelmed by it, a
question of maintaining an adequate sense of the
known while dealing with the unknown.

2. Order and Disorder
Major change implies the ending of one form of

Place is another term with over twenty definitions as
a noun, another term with immense importance to
people. “I/we have a place” is a profoundly important statement or belief. Not having a place - a place
to be, a place in which we belong, leaves us without
reference, without a sense of connection.
And yet, that is exactly what must happen in cases
of major change. In heroic journeys people, groups,
even whole communities can feel displaced and must
find new points of reference, new ways of belonging,
and new connections. The intensity and duration of
such displacement can vary dramatically, but some
sense of displacement will occur. Like disorder, displacement can be distressing and anxiety provoking.

4. Connection and Disconnection
Connection is about relationships. Disconnection
is about the loss of relationships. Reconnection
is about the mending of old relationships or the
beginning of new ones. The connection may be
to other people or groups of various sizes, to a
geographic place, to ideas and values, to ways of
doing things, to memories, to technologies, or to
hopes and possibilities.
The danger is not so much in losing forms of relationship, but in losing too many relationships for too long.



There will be a loss of relationship in the journey just
as there will be a loss of order, a loss of place, a loss
of meaning, or a loss of orientation. That is not necessarily destructive, but it will be uncomfortable.
People and groups are most vulnerable when their
connections are too few or too important. Too few
connections means that fewer losses can be sustained and attaching too much importance to any
one connection means that the loss of that one connection can be extremely threatening.
This is another setting where the concept of a web is
useful. We have webs of relationships, from people
to place, and we can stand to lose some relationships
if others stay in place and we develop replacements
over time for those that we have lost.

5. Hope and Belief and Doubt
and Despair
Much of the time in Act II of a journey hope and belief
exist together with doubt and even despair. Their
relative strength may vary greatly over time and may
be influenced by many potential factors. It may be
difficult to find a rational basis for hope just as it can
be impossible to disprove doubts. Objectivity often
has little influence in the dynamics of this relationship.
The definitions of doubt are familiar to any who have
experienced significant transitions or lived heroically;
“a condition of uncertainty”, “lack of conviction”, “to
waver or fluctuate in opinion or belief”, “to be inclined to lack of belief”, “to withhold assent from”.
Despair is even more troubling as it is simply a lack
of hope.
In contrast, hope is defined as “to wish for something
with expectation of its fulfillment”, “to have confidence, trust”, “to look forward to with confidence or
expectation”. The times will be rare when both hope
and doubt are not present together, although each
will come to the fore at different times.

6. Excitement, Anticipation, Fear,
and Anxiety


Excitement, anticipation, fear, and anxiety are all
forms of energy, although the experience of them
is certainly different. Excitement and anticipation
often feel like forces that draw or push forward, while
fear and anxiety often feel like forces that argue for
avoiding, stopping, going back, or changing direction.
Excitement and anticipation also tend to encourage
contact and engagement while fear and anxiety reinforce the desire to withdraw or disengage. They will
all be at play to varying degrees during the journey
and managing their energies is one of the key competencies that need to be developed.
Although often used interchangeably, it is helpful
to differentiate between fear and anxiety to help in
managing them. Fear can be seen as having a more
defined source or object (“I’m afraid of...”). The
source(s) of anxiety is less specific and often hard
to describe. It is more generalized and, therefore
very often more difficult to manage. Where fear may
generate acute feelings, anxiety tends to show up as
apprehension, uneasiness or agitation.

7. Meaning and Loss or Lack of
It is necessary to find meanpsychoing, whether it relates to
people, places, things,
logical terms
memories, values and
beliefs, or ways of dointegration
ing things from work
processes to cermeans the orgaemonies and rituals.
Without sufficient
nization of various
meaning or significance, life is difficult
traits or tendencies
at best. Meaning
provides a basis for
into one harmosacrifice (giving up
something for something
nious personalor greater value). It provides a basis for purpose, for
investing, for setting and maintaining direction and orientation,
and for renewal of energy and commitment. Meaning may or may not be lost on a journey,
but when it is, that loss can significantly depress the
energy of an individual or group, which can show up



as lethargy, disinterest or apathy.

8. Orientation and Disorientation
If we think of orientation in terms of “relationship to”,
there is a wide range of relationships that can come
into play and be subject to this process of orientation,
disorientation, and new orientation. For instance
people relate to other people, groups, missions,
goals, roles and jobs, professions, places, organizations and communities, technologies, values and
beliefs, and on, and on, and on.
Even a change in one relationship can create a sense
of disorientation if it is a significant relationship. Major changes usually create a great deal of uncertainty
about a number of these relationships. The trick is
not only to reestablish a new orientation where the
old relationship no longer holds, but to also remain
aware of those relationships that are not changing
significantly and that can maintain some degree of

9. Integration and Disintegration


can be created can cause a good deal of doubt and
confusion for leaders when best efforts don’t seem
to have the desired calming effect. It is at these
points that understanding what’s normal coupled
with the will to persevere and “hold the course”
makes all the difference.

Act III: Completing
Journeys: Integrating
and Embedding
Strange as it sounds, successfully completing a
heroic journey can be the most difficult part of the
journey. This is partly due to the reactions of others
to the changes of the hero and partly due to the need
to re-order the hero’s world to fit the changes. The
hard-won individual, organizational or community
changes can be surprisingly vulnerable for a period
of time.

Integration, integrity, and integral are of the same
family. They are defined by phrases such as; “to
make whole or complete”, “to unify”, “possessing
everything essential”, “to join with something else”.
In psychological terms integration means the organization of various traits or tendencies into one harmonious personality. Disintegration carries a very
different experience resulting from its various definitions; “to separate into parts or fragments”, “to lose
or cause to lose wholeness”, “to become reduced to
components, fragments, or particles”.
As with orientation, integration must be lost to some
degree in change, giving way to disintegration of
varying degrees, and eventually leading to a new
more adaptive or mature integration. Understanding
the necessity of the process may be of great comfort
to people experiencing a loss of integration.
With all these factors naturally at play the challenge
for leaders is to respect these dynamic tensions,
manage our own reactions to them and help others
manage their experience. The soup of emotions that

The Central Test at the Completion
of Journeys
The final test is to fully integrate, deepen, and protect
the changes that have been achieved. Successful
change creates a “ripple effect”, which means that
other people and groups may be affected in significant ways. Their responses may or may not be positive because our changes will require complimentary
changes on their part. Part of this final heroic test is
to manage this “ripple effect” and assure that important relationships are protected.



Successful change will also result in a lack of alignment of the “things” of an organization or community. It will also require attention to the attunement of
the people of the organization or community. Some
pieces just won’t fit and it will take time to regain
that fit. It’s a normal part of the journey, but it needs
attention to achieve sustainable performance at the
new levels. This is the realm of those leaders playing
the Integrator role.


partially achieving it is to understand the impact or
likely implications for those with whom they are in
relationship (even remote or indirect).

The Impact on Others and Their
Often Surprising Responses
Achieving or partially achieving the desired state can
often present a major challenge and a major surprise. On the surface it would seem that achieving
the desired state would simply be a good thing. That
achievement, however, presents those in relationship
with the individual, group, organization or community with the demand to change to align with their
new reality.
The danger is that the individual or group completing
the heroic journey will not give enough thought to
the “ripple effect” their journey might have on others. That effect is often to launch others on their own
journey of change, which they may or may not want
and may or may not be ready for. Thinking about
how to help others deal with the challenges they will
face is essential and not just at the end of the journey.
Throughout the journey this issue must be addressed
as changes unfold.
For example, when a spouse makes a significant
change there is often a significant strain placed on
the relationship. Changes in a corporation might
have major ripple effects on suppliers. A change in
how one department in an organization works, for
instance information systems, can ripple throughout the rest of the organization. Another example is
that of someone who goes on a journey to discover
a truth that, when presented, demands a change in a
society - Gandhi for instance. Ironically, a hero may,
if they are successful, throw someone else into a
journey that they didn’t ask for and may not want.
That will, in almost all cases, be resisted, sometimes
strongly and sometimes violently. One of the critical issues for anyone approaching a desired state or

The Four Classic Responses of
There are four responses that can be expected of
those impacted by our changes. Unfortunately
for the heroic individual, group, organization or
community, three of these responses can be highly
1. Force-fit. Others can try to force the hero back
into his or her old position, role, or “way”. That
would be a forced fit and uncomfortable for the
hero and for others. It would be life diminishing
for the hero and not likely to last.
2. Shun. Others can shun the hero, which is a
psychological experience of exceptional pain. It is
being thrown or driven out, exiled, denied relationship and connection or belonging.
3. Kill off. Others can kill the hero figuratively or
literally or drive them out.




4. Answer the call. Others can accept the inherent challenge to change and become bigger, more
complex, more mature, more adaptive. That challenge is to change in significant ways to match the
changes of those that have completed a journey.
It is the challenge to also go forth, leaving a known
world, and face the challenges of the path. One
successful heroic journey can naturally precipitate
many more.

Easing the Return – Preparing the
There are several critical factors that can affect how
others respond to the implicit demands for change of
a hero’s return and part of a leaders’ role is to ensure
that the right questions are asked about those impacted by the ripple effect of the journey. Questions
to ask include the following:
1. What is the likely impact on the surrounding
world of achieving the goals of our journey and
what might the change demands be on it? The impact might be material or psychological/emotional.
It might be on a physical, intellectual, emotional,
or spiritual level. It might affect individuals, relationships, groups, organizations, or communities.
Just as we looked at our own experience through
these lenses in order to manage our experience,
we need to use the same lenses to attend to those
we affect.
2. What is the degree of change readiness and
capability of those most affected and what might
they gain or lose?
3. What can we do to encourage others to go
forth and what can we do to support them and
help them be successful? Our sustained success
will depend to some degree on their success.
There is, of course, a limit to how much we can influence our world. Preparing the way does not guarantee that our world will be friendly to the changes in
us and the implications of those changes for those
around us. It does, however, provide a discipline
and guidance to assure that we don’t overlook what
we can do, that we continue to take responsibility for
staying awake and for being the author.

Fitting Everything Together
– Alignment and Attunement
Change means ending one form to find another that
is more functional. Creating that new form means
assuring that everything fits, that things are aligned
and people are attuned. The “things” of the organization must be aligned so that the strategies, structure, systems, processes, technologies, physical
plant, and policies and procedures reinforce each
other rather than conflict.
In a similar fashion the people of the organization
must be attuned with each other and the
organization. This includes such ele“The
ments as the nature of relationships, beliefs, attitudes, habits,
trap is
confidence and esprit de
corps, and general health.
that it rarely
A major pitfall in Act III
is failing to realize that
feels like there
things can be aligned
relatively quickly, but
is time to learn
people become attuned
over an extended period
when there is a
of time. The challenges
are very different.

demand to

There is one other challenge
and opportunity in completion
and it requires a good deal of leadership discipline. That is learning from the
experience and turning that learning into increased
organizational capability, particularly leadership
capability. If the heroic journey has been well led
and has employed a web of leaders and effective followers, there should be a significant, if not dramatic,
increase in the leadership available to the organization or community.
However, failing to learn from the experience or failing to turn that learning into increased leadership
capability is a common trap and it will snap shut naturally without leadership attention. The trap is that it
rarely feels like there is time to learn when there is a
demand to “do”. Doing may be king, but it is a poor
king when learning does not accompany it.



Knowledge of the Journey – “Don’t
Leave Home Without It”
Knowledge of the heroic journey provides a deep
and solid foundation for leadership action – knowing
what to expect, what to do, and why we’re doing it.
The depth and solidity of that foundation support the
flexibility and responsiveness of leadership actions
as the roles are played and the strategies executed.
Knowledge of what is normal on a journey also allows leaders to act with confidence and “hold the
course” - from the very beginning, through the big
challenges of letting go, master and “inbetweenity ,”
all the way through fully integrating the changes.
If knowledge of the heroic journey is dispersed
throughout the organization, it also provides the
foundation for people to self-manage throughout
the course of the journey. That includes the ability of leaders to “manage self to lead others.” An
understanding of the journey also helps people trust
leadership as they see leaderships’ actions match the
realities of the journey.
Knowledge enhances people’s willingness to “answer the call” and fully invest in the journey. It also
supports the web of leaders and followers and it
highlights why drawing on the four forms of courage is so important. And knowledge, commitment,
a web of leaders and followers and a foundation of
courage make all the difference in the effectiveness
of the leadership roles and strategies.