You are on page 1of 26

Gordon Barnhart

515 Terrace Avenue

Cincinnati, Ohio 45220
Fax 513.221.0899
Roles and

of the
Answer Heroic
the Journey




Forms of

• Bargaining
OVERVIEW OF THE • Depression

Guidelines for Leadership
• The Rewards • Endings and Creation Overlap
• Act I: Beginnings

The Tests
Heroes Don’t Go Alone
• Act III: Completions • Life Giving Creation and Mastery
• Creation

Learning and Mastery
• Always Two Journeys for Individuals – • Models of Mastery
An Internal and an External • The Mastery Force-Field
• We Spiral Through Journeys • Learning to “Love the Plateau”
• Personal Levels of Challenge (PIES) • The Inevitable Performance Dips
• Ripple Effects and Senior Management Psychosis
• The Scale of Tests
• Positive and Negative Tests ACT II: THE CHALLENGE

Encountered Dynamic Tensions
The Known and Unknown
• The Five Challenges at the • Order and Disorder
Heart of the Journey • 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
• How Journeys Begin. It Matters a Lot
• Integration and Disintegration
• Heeding a Call
• Being Thrown Into a Journey
• Being Lured Into a Journey ACT III: COMPLETING
Blundering Into a Journey
• The Nature of Thresholds AND EMBEDDING
• “Guardians of the Threshold” and
the Refusal of the Journey • The Central Test at the Completion
• “Dancing Around the Threshold” of Journeys
• The Impact on Others and Their Often
ACT II: THE CHALLENGE Surprising Responses

The Four Classic Responses of Others
Easing the Return – Preparing the Way
• The Essential Endings • Fitting Everything Together – Alignment
• Anticipatory Loss and Attunement
• Sacrifice Vs. Simple Loss • Knowledge of the Journey – “Don’t
• Managing the Stages of Dealing Leave Home Without It”
with Endings

Part One: ership efforts and result in an unsuccessful journey.

Setting The Stage In the case of knowledge as power, a lack of knowl-
edge about what to expect and what to do can leave
people fearful, hesitant, uncertain, reactive, often
Knowledge is Power passive, mistrustful and resistant in general.

There are two reasons to pay attention to the reali- On the other hand, with sufficient people prepared
ties of the heroic journey. well the likely scenario is one of more excitement
than anxiety, more trust than mistrust, a posture of
1. As leaders, this is the path we will travel and self-management vs. dependence, an investment
the tests we will encounter – personally and in of self vs. withholding, and an increasing sense of
our leadership roles. The heroic journey tells confidence and esprit de corps as challenges are met
us what we can expect as well what leadership and overcome.
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.
Overveiew of The
2. This is the path that we will be asking our the Heroic heroic
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.
Journey journey is
By bringing this base of knowledge to our
followers it also helps them understand how we The heroic journey pro- the story of
are leading and makes it easier for them to align vides a trustworthy map
with us and each other. for leaders. It is the story change and
of change and growth in
its healthiest form. It is growth in its
Knowledge is truly power and power is required from about becoming increasingly
the beginning to the end in journeys of change. That competent, mature, resilient, healthiest
power needs to be exercised by a surprisingly large and able to meet the shifting
number of people who are aligned in their efforts. challenges of the world. Almost form.
This is “power with” vs. “power over” as part of the all cultures have their own versions
Leadership Web. of the heroic journey to educate their
members about what’s required for the health of the
The old phrase, “Power corrupts and absolute power community as well as creating meaningful lives. The
corrupts absolutely,” is a wise warning, but its oppo- journey plays out in three acts.
site is much more in play in the heroic journey. On
journeys of change a lack of power will corrupt lead-

The Rewards
Act II: On the Path
In addition to achieving increased competencies,
wisdom, resilience and confidence, when we follow When we do cross the threshold and move through
the path of the heroic journey we serve as models the land that lies on the other side we are faced with
for our groups and infuse those groups with life tests and trials that usually require new or altered
energy. Groups and communities become stronger ways of organizing ourselves in groups, thinking,
and better prepared for the next journey. Even when relating and acting. What worked before needs to be
journeys aren’t completely successful, most of the honored, but may no longer be effective. Old pat-
rewards can still be realized to a surprisingly large terns and approaches may even be counter-produc-
degree. Most of us can look back on experiences tive or dangerous.
that weren’t particularly successful, but from
which we grew in important ways. The Tests
One of the reasons that the long The heroic journey is a time of endings and begin-
chal- term benefits are so important nings and of the difficult terrain in between. We may
is that the heroic journey is a find that our tests are physical, intellectual, emotional,
lenge of cyclical or spiral experience. or even spiritual and that our changes are, conse-
As individuals and orga- quently, in one or more of those areas. Different
mastery may nizations we go through journeys pose different challenges and opportunities
multiple journeys over and result in different areas of growth.
be the single big- the course of a lifetime.
Each journey, therefore, The journey will often require letting go of many,
gest, and least builds on past journeys though certainly not all, old ways in order to give
and sets the stage for birth to the new. For instance, even a change in one
appreciated, of future journeys. key process in an organization can require comple-
mentary changes in roles, skills, relationships, tech-
the tests on a Act I: Beginnings nologies, physical space or equipment. It can also
affect a person’s sense of identity, place or the mean-
journey” The classic heroic journey ing and satisfaction found in their work.
begins with the crossing of a
threshold, leaving a known world or A second set of challenges and tests, often the most
comfort zone. We may (a) “heed a call” to deceptively difficult, takes the form of discovering
go forth, (b) be thrown into the journey, (c) be lured new ways and persevering in mastering the skills
in, or (d) blunder in. The first challenge is getting they require. The challenge of mastery may be the
past what are called the “guardians of the threshold.” single biggest, and least appreciated, of the tests
These guardians take the form of such things as inner on a journey. A third set of tests will involve dealing
doubts or external forces that try to turn us back right with the uncertainty, occasional disorientation, and
at the beginning. They are the first test and chal- ambiguity of the land between endings and begin-
lenge our readiness and worthiness to go forth. nings (“inbetweenity”). Helping people stay oriented
and balanced and connected is central to success in
Many journeys have the seeds of failure sown right dealing with this in-between state.
at the beginning because we never really leave the
known world – we leave a foot on either side of the Heroes Don’t Go Alone
threshold. We can, therefore, never really discover
the new truths, the revelations, and the new life that Few (if any) of us who cross the threshold have to
are possible. Beginnings matter – a lot. 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 The tests on a heroic journey for any individual will
members and colleagues to various advisors and vet- be both internal and external and those two types
erans of the heroic journey who share their wisdom may be profoundly different. This is why there are
and encouragement. Actively developing a support really two journeys to manage. The external journey
network of these helpers is a critical task in “manag- will relate to the changes underway in the organiza-
ing ourselves to lead others.” tion or community. We may be leading or following,
but we will be engaged in all the elements of the
Act III: Completions classic heroic journey. We will also see changes in
ourselves as we traverse that external path.
When we successfully meet the challenges of the
journey the final phase is some form of return or Some external journeys precipitate big internal
completion. We “return” with the gifts that we have journeys of change and some only precipitate little
discovered, whether new knowledge, new abilities, changes, but there will always be something going
new ways of working and relating or new technolo- on for us personally. And there will always be oppor-
gies. That triggers the final set of challenges. tunities for us to grow and become more mature and
whole – if we pay attention.
The hero’s return may be the most difficult part of
all. Whether individually or as a group, we will be Even when the external journey is disappointing or
changed. That will require changes in others, for full of loss, the internal journey may be richly reward-
it will change the nature of relationships and align- ing, particularly in the long run. We define ourselves
ments of various kinds. Those changes can ripple by how we respond to the external challenges and
out in many directions and for long distances. The can, therefore, build new skill sets and define our
gifts of the hero can easily threaten the status quo. character and best qualities - even in an unsuccessful
Once again, this is as relevant for communities and external quest.
organizations as it is for individuals. We must ap-
proach 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.

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
The external challenges are usually more obvious
story just described. Six principles are presented
and get most of the attention, although they are often
here and each will be a factor in every journey. Each
not the most difficult nor the most important tests.
will offer leadership a potential edge in understand-
On the other hand, we usually have more influence
ing their own experience as well as that of those who
over the management of our internal journeys.
follow and, thus, guidance in how to respond.

2. We Spiral Through Journeys

1. Always Two Journeys for an
Individual – an Internal and The life of each individual, organization or community
an External Journey 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: Physical challenges, for example, can range from
injury or illness to demands for more sustained effort
• The spiral denotes the life-long nature of the or extended travel, or exposure to danger and the
series of heroic journeys in which we are likely required heightened alertness. Physical states can
to engage. It does not represent an event or one vary from energized and revitalized to exhausted and
journey standing alone. Each journey can be “burned out”. Physical capabilities can be enhanced
seen as one more cycle of the spiral, each build- or damaged. Over the course of a journey both en-
ing on those that have come before and leading hancement and damage can be expected to varying
to the next. degrees

• Life doesn’t happen in a straight line. A straight Intellectual challenges often involve new ways of
path through life would be too steep and too thinking or conceptualizing ranging from how com-
dangerous. Life is just too interesting and twist- munities are organized or interact to how a person
ing as well as difficult. A direct linear path would sees her or himself (self image), to new ideas about
be like driving straight up (or down) a mountain. the nature of relationships, to how work is organized.
The spiral path allows a more gradual ascent with
twists and turns. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression, despair,
disconnection, disorientation, and alienation can be
• The spiral also allows a shifting focus among mixed with feelings of joy, exhilaration, excitement,
the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual calm, wonder, connection, hope, and inspiration.
planes precipitated by the longing for wholeness Emotions can be fully experienced or repressed and
and integration. It allows any particular journey they can shift rapidly depending on circumstances
to bring progress in one or more areas even and a person’s physical, intellectual, and spiritual
while there may be regression in other areas. It states.
acknowledges that people change on different
levels at different times. The danger comes We will be challenged to trust, risk, depend on others,
when growth in any particular area is blocked for maintain a sense of hope and confidence, and draw
too long. A crisis, however, will probably occur on our sources of courage. The deepening of emo-
to break the logjam, although the crisis may not tional competence can be one of the great challenges
look like a good thing at the time. and great benefits of the journey.

3. Personal Levels of Challenge Taken to its deepest level, the heroic journey is ul-
timately a spiritual journey. That can be defined in
(PIES) many ways, but in general terms has to do with con-
nection and relationship beyond “self”, to a connec-
There are always four potential levels of challenge in
tion to a higher being, to the common ground of life,
any heroic journey (PIES).
to the divine, to the universe. Questions of purpose,
meaning, and creativity or generativity also frequent-
• Our Physical life • Our Intellectual life
ly come into play.
• Our Emotional life • Our Spiritual life
4. Ripple Effects
Some challenges along the journey will be primarily
physical in nature, some intellectual, some emotional,
Effects in one area will ripple out through the other
and some spiritual. Some will be more important
areas. For example
than others and some will be answered more effec-
tively than others. Different journeys will challenge
• An external intellectual challenge such as a
us on different ways. It is important, however, to re-
change in required management or leadership
member that the heroic journey can touch all of those
style may provide major internal emotional chal-
levels and in many ways.
lenges such as fear of ineffectiveness or a loss

of power, a shift in identity or esteem, loss of a • Communities are confronting challenges of gov-
sense of form or order, or simply anxiety about ernance, diversity, economic health, educational
the unknown. systems and systems of healthcare.

• Similarly, an emotional shock, such as losing a Part of the test in organization-wide or community
position or job may result in physical challenges change is figuring out how everything fits – re-align-
of increased stress and decreased support, intel- ment – after the changes have been made in key
lectual challenges to rethink careers or family life areas. A complementary challenge is determining
styles, and may even result in rethinking one’s which groups and individuals are significantly affect-
place in the universe or larger scheme of things. ed by the changes and how to help them deal with
that impact.
• Challenging community norms may bring chal-
lenges on all four levels. Physical safety may be Even in organization and community change where
challenged and emotional well being can easily a great deal of systemic change might be involved,
be shaken by being threatened or shunned or much of the leadership focus must be on individual
simply doubted by others. Intellectual capacity and group change. As organizational life becomes
can be strained trying to figure out what’s going more fluid, groups must form and reform (often
on, what the desired state might look like, and across many boundaries) and morph to meet the ever
what might be required to get there. Spiritu- changing requirements. Community and organiza-
ally, relationship beyond self may undergo major tional change does not happen without change in a
challenges and rethinking or may be powerfully surprising number of people and the groups in which
reaffirmed. they work.

Often, where there is a threat on one level, there That’s One of the Differences Between the Classic
are opportunities on another, although those op- Heroic Stories and Our Current Reality. We now have
portunities may be less obvious. The change in a whole communities and organizations needing to
person’s leadership style that was noted above may go forth on heroic journeys with large numbers of
be experienced with a great deal of fear or anxiety, people taking on the heroic role. The heroic stories
but it may also result in increased self-knowledge, still work, particularly for all those people that are
maturity, flexibility and confidence. The loss of a job thrown into journeys, but our stories are the individu-
may cause a needed re-evaluation of career, lifestyle al journeys on a larger scale.
or family relationships or even a deeper sense of
spirituality. 6. Positive and Negative Tests
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
The scale of tests – from individual to communi- influence. Some tests, however, will appear in more
tyTests can occur on a community, organizational, positive forms, for instance promotions, marriage,
group or individual basis (COGI). One of the surpris- new work relationships, or increased influence or
ing things about the classic heroic journey is that it responsibility.
is as valid for group, organizational, or community
change as it is for individual change. It becomes It should not be assumed that tests that take a more
much more complex, but the pattern holds its value negative form will be more difficult or result in less
even with large scale communities. desirable outcomes. In fact, it is often the case that
the tests that have been the most shocking or trau-
• The kinds of tests that challenge across an matizing or caused the biggest initial sense of loss
organization include such things as changes in were the tests that resulted in the most valuable
strategy, processes, technology, ownership, roles outcomes.
and relationships, structure, competency require-
ments, etc. These principles are very effective guides in pre-

paring for a heroic journey, whether in a leader or land of “inbetweenity” that lies between end-
follower role. They are also extremely useful as the ings and beginnings.
journey progresses to make sense out of the experi-
ence – to normalize it – as well as point to where the 5. Integrate, deepen, and protect what has
opportunities lie, even in the toughest settings. developed - starts early on the journey and
continues for quite a while after the journey
appears to be over.
Part Two: The Heroic These are our challenges and they will play out on the
Journey – A Story in following journey. These challenges will play out dif-
ferently on each journey. Some journeys will require

Three Acts a major focus on dealing with endings and loss. Oth-
ers will come with a major focus on discovery and
mastery. Still others may see a prolonged period of
The heroic journey can be seen as a three act play. “inbetweenity. And any mix is possible, which is why
Act I requires fast action to achieve the right type of leadership is such an art form and requires that we
beginning for the journey. Act II requires persever- continuously evolve personally and professionally.
ance 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 back-
sliding. Act I: Beginnings –
The Five Challenges at the Going Forth
Heart of the Journey
OK – I’m in a leadership posture and ready to be the
The nature of the tests we know we will encounter author vs. a victim. I’m at the threshold. What can I
and their likely impact on our sense of well being expect?
and our ability to perform at high levels lead natu-
rally to five core challenges that we must meet. The How Journeys
advantage of knowing these challenges is that we
can focus our attention and energy on them with the Begin – It Matters a Lot
confidence that these are the areas that will make the
difference. How journeys begin is one of the most deceptively
important issues in the heroic journey and it has ma-
1. Be the author of the experience to the greatest jor implications for leadership. There are four ways
extent possible - begins at the beginning with that heroic journeys can begin and most of us have
more challenges throughout the journey. 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)
• Be thrown into a journey by others
3. Discover and master new ways, developing
new knowledge, new skills, and new qualities • Be lured into a journey
and capabilities or deepening old ones.
• Blunder into a journey
4. Manage the uncertainty, unknown,
conflicting emotions, and shifting reality of the

Heeding a Call journey and the challenge for leader-

ship is to help people deal with the “Cross-
impact and, as quickly as pos-
We can heed a call to go forth and do something that
sible, get into a posture of ing thresh-
needs to be done. The call may be our own voice or
self-management as well
it may be an external voice. We might respond to the
as appropriately author- olds brings
first call or the third or the twentieth. The key char-
ing the journey expe-
acteristic of beginning a journey by heeding a call is
rience. That could with it risk and
that we begin already in the position of author. It is
mean joining the web
our choice to go forth, so we have already adopted a
of leaders with clear danger, but it also
posture of responsibility. The journey will also have
roles and commit-
begun on our timeframe, for the most part.
ment or simply follow- brings the po-
ing as effectively as
possible. tential to fulfill
Responding to the experi- important
ence of being thrown into a
journey is one of the highest needs.”
leverage points that leadership
will have.

Being Thrown Into a Journey

This is currently the most common beginning be-

cause 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 skill-
ful enough to communicate the need for going forth,
how it will play out and leadership’s commitment in Being Lured Into a Journey
such a way that people hear the call and accept it.
To be fair to senior leaders, there are many settings
This experience is a blend of heeding a call and be-
that simply don’t allow that approach and people are
ing thrown into the journey. A frequent statement
simply going to feel thrown.
is, “Wait a minute, I thought we were just…” There
are lots of ways this can happen. A frequent one is
The key characteristic in being thrown is the lack of
implementing a technology that seems to have a lim-
authorship and responsibility as well as the frequent
ited scope of impact and finding that the ripple affect
shock and potential immediate losses that occur.
involves many more people, roles, relationships, pro-
This is a profoundly different way of beginning a
cesses and skills than anticipated. What looked like a

journey of one scale suddenly becomes a journey on

a much larger scale. Common examples for individuals
are failing at a job and losing it,
While less challenging for leadership than where being injured or simply col-
ple who
people are simply thrown into a journey, the respons- lapsing from chronic stress,
es may be quite similar. This is because people can losing a key relationship,
do not finally
feel deceived or surprised by the shift in degree of flunking out of school or
challenge pull their commitment back until they feel being arrested. It’s usu-
cross the thresh-
like they have figured out this shift in reality. ally a sense of being vic-
timized 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 perfor-
mance drop to the point where outside forces precip-
itate the journey. That can be an acquisition, a Board
decision to replace senior management, bankruptcy,
government intervention or the loss of a major mar-
ket 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 pain-
ful beginnings, but they are beginnings if we respond
by continuing the journey.

“Guardians of the Threshold” and

For leadership it is critical to be visible, confident,
engaged and exercise the courage to do what is
the Refusal of the Journey
required, which will probably involve a good deal of
sacrifice. Leadership must also approach the journey The guardians of the threshold are an essential part
playing all of the heroic leadership roles and using of the journey and pose the first test for the hero.
all of the core strategies. Leaders may have some They are designed to guard the threshold and turn
slack when journeys begin with people heeding a call. back anyone who is not ready for the journey. The
They have no slack when journeys begin as a blunder. 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 en-
tering 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 shift-
ing 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 thresh-

old 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 look-
ing 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 thresh-
old a bit before retreating.

This testing allows time to get used to the idea of go-

ing 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 con-
tinues without a final crossing of the threshold and
going forth. Getting thrown into a journey, however,
Act II:
can short-cut this process, although we may end up
with the problem of people keeping one foot on the The Challenge
of Endings
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
The heroic journey is about leaving known worlds to
take the risk to go forth and cross the threshold. Peo-
confront the mysteries. It entails endings and begin-
ple who do not finally cross the threshold end up as
nings, deaths and births, destruction and creation,
victims and must be rescued by others. Note: Differ-
unlearning and learning, letting go and taking on/be-
ent people have different styles of beginning a heroic
coming. It is that basic, that exciting, and that dif-
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
This section looks at the endings likely to be en-
important for leaders to recognize who is who and
countered. It explores basic aspects of these “mini-
help each group commit in as healthy a fashion as
deaths” and the process people go through to deal
possible. The Visionary and the Builder are the two
with such endings. This is fundamental knowledge
leadership roles in the beginning and they are joined
for leaders as it makes sense of the experience as
by the Catalyst in the trasition to Act II.
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 pro- Sacrifice vs. Simple Loss
found sense of loss. The key for leadership is having
the courage to find out what that experience is like for
This is a critical distinction. Sacrifice can be defined
people and then deal with it. For example, if endings
as giving up something for something of greater
are the closing of a plant where several generations
value. The inevitable losses of the journey are often
of families have worked or the ending of jobs that
easier to accept if they are seen as being in service
provide identity and self worth, then the experience
of something of more value, for instance a vision or
is likely to be acute and the tests for leadership very
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 experi-
ence 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 fo-
cused 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 in-
fluence, 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 com-
munity. 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
There are several theories of how we experience
Endings don’t have to be real to create a sense of
endings that are useful in understanding this part
loss and grief. Particularly where people don’t feel
of the journey. One that is particularly useful is that
“in the know” about what’s planned or going on, they
of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Her model proposes that
are likely to go to worst case scenarios and begin
people go through five stages in dealing with the
grieving losses that haven’t happened. Those feel-
anticipated or actual death – one’s own death or the
ings are as real as those attached to actual losses, so
death of a loved one. Although she is addressing the
they need to be respected and dealt with.
death of a human being, the five stages fit the reac-

tion to any major ending surprisingly well. when people are angry, they are engaged and their
Don’t ignore it and don’t fight it – go with it and take energy is outwardly directed. It may not feel good to
advantage of it. The stages are natural and each has leadership, but the energy is out to be worked with.
its purpose. The leadership challenge is to under- Anger can provide the following benefits.
stand the stages, respect their functions and find
ways to help people gain the value of each stage • It is one way to exercise power and not be a
so that they naturally move ahead. We can’t control passive-aggressive victim – people are beginning
these stages, but we can certainly dramatically influ- to try to influence what happens.
ence them. Denial, anger, and bargaining offer the
greatest opportunities for helping people deal with • It can be a push for involvement – getting more
endings and loss. information, moving toward productive roles

1. Denial • It is a good test for leadership in that it

encourages leadership to engage and really
understand the impact of decisions – it is
As annoying as denial can be, it is usually not an
feedback and that is critical.
indicator of pathological employees or citizens. The
denial stage has a number of functions that help
• It tests the assumptions and decisions of
people move toward accepting the change.
leadership and those can be re-affirmed or
altered – leadership may be wrong about some
• Provides time to recover from any shock, things or have missed something important.
particularly if thrown into the journey.

• Provides time to prepare to step up and engage 3. Bargaining

in self-management and/or taking on a role in the
leadership web.

• 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 at-
tend 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
Energy is also outwardly focused in this stage and
2. Anger people are still engaged with leadership. Bargaining
can be extremely valuable. It can also be extremely
Relatively few leaders are good at dealing with annoying. Often it is both. Bargaining often pro-
people’s anger, but it is really a core competency for vides leadership with wonderful opportunities to
leading change. One thing to keep in mind is that further develop patience. It’s a stage full of conversa-

tions with sentence stems such as, “What if…?” and sion is usually a sign that people are accepting the
“How about…?” fact that they are experiencing significant losses and
are preparing to let go. Unless the depression is too
• Bargaining helps people figure out the scope of acute or is becoming chronic, leadership’s role is
the change, more about its rationale and more to acknowledge it and respect its purpose and give
details about the envisioned desired state and people the room to feel some depression. The other
the journey itself. way to help is to simply continue to play the six lead-
ership roles and execute their strategies, which will
• Bargaining provides opportunities to influence move the whole organization and make it easier for
the journey in a variety of ways, from refining people to come out of their depression.
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 .

• 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. 5. Acceptance

One is where it is too strong or acute and affects
a large number of people in that way. The other is
When people reach the acceptance stage their en-
when it goes on for too long, when it is chronic. One
ergy is freed and available for engaging in productive
of the reasons for leadership to attend to the anger
roles in the journey. They may have been productive
and bargaining stages is that, if those are dealt with
in other stages, but nowhere near the extent that they
well, depression is likely to be more mild and shorter
are once they reach acceptance. They are ready to
lived. If not dealt with well, the energy from those
engage the tests, particularly discovery and mastery
stages can turn inward and end up showing up as
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 depression people’s energy is obviously inward, as
in productive roles as soon as possible, without rush-
with denial, and thus not available for moving ahead.
ing the process and precipitating setbacks if people
There are two ways to help with depression. Depres-

aren’t really ready. new beginnings begin to be emerge. There is also

Guidelines for Leadership a limit to how much creation can take place unless
the process of letting go continues and that is where
many pitfalls lie.
There are a few things to keep in mind when facilitat-
ing people’s progress through these stages.
The danger is that, the excitement of the new masks
the need for continued attention to the endings and
• This is not a one-size-fits-all model. The basic
losses or provides a distraction. The difficulty of
model can be trusted to be in operation, but how
dealing with endings easily leaves people vulner-
it shows up will vary widely. Different people
able to such distractions. Put another way, people in
experience the stages in different ways
general will take any out from the process of grieving
endings and dealing with the unknown.
• The key to the value of these stages is in
understanding why they occur – their purpose or
Thus, there is a leadership challenge of balancing
function for an individual.
attention to letting go with attention to creation, so
that they actually facilitate each other.
• 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.
Act II: The
• People may skip a phase and the phases may
repeat. That’s not a bad thing. For instance, Challenges of
people may come out of depression by revisiting
anger or bargaining. Creation and Mastery
This is the most deceptive challenge. It is the chal-
Endings and Creation Overlap
lenge that claims more victims than any other. There
are two reasons for this and it is imperative that lead-
Endings and creation are almost always intertwined, ers understand them and aggressively ensure that
although the degree of overlap can vary quite a bit. they do not undermine the journey.
The ability to grieve losses frees energy for “getting
on with it,” for creating or taking on the new - or • One factor is that discovery and mastery are far
simply moving on down the path. On the other hand, more complex and difficult than they seem – and
not dealing with the process of grieving or letting go take far more time and effort than expected.
not only precludes freeing energy for creation, but
can dramatically diminish the energy available. The • Most corporate cultures don’t truly value
excitement of creation is less likely to occur if its mastery and few leaders really challenge these
counterpoint, the energy of grieving, is suppressed norms. When it comes to allocating resources,
or denied. mastery is usually given far too little and that
oversight comes with a cost.
Some theories propose that the grieving must be
completed before the creation can really take place. This challenge seems much more benign than deal-
To a large degree they are true, but they are not true ing with endings and grief or with the anxiety of the
absolutely. Another way of looking at the experience in-between state. The kind face of mastery, however,
is as a back and forth process where initially a good is far more dangerous than the glare of endings or
deal of letting go must take place before much cre- the concerned face of “inbetweenity.” This is where
ative energy is free for use. There is a limit, however, the leadership role of the Builder takes center stage.
to how much letting go usually happens before some

discoveries, they can come in many forms,

such as picking up new skills, ways
Life-Giving Creation and Mastery “The
of perceiving/ordering the world,
styles of behaving, or manag-
“Creation” excite-
ing relationships. As with
discoveries, learning and
ment of cre-
“Creation” - the balance to death or endings. “Dy- mastery are often a
mixed bag.
ing to be reborn” is often the dominant theme in the ation is less
hero’s journey. Creation is the only force of equal pri-
Learning and mastery
macy with death in the myths or endings in organiza- likely to occur if
tional and community change. The creation may take can be exciting and
they can be difficult
place in the same areas as the endings or in other its counterpoint,
areas, but it will not take place in any significant ways and frustrating. They
can lead to the joy of
without some endings, some losses. Capitalism, the energy of
for example, has been called a process of creative higher levels of under-
standing and capability,
destruction. grieving, is sup-
but they can also entail
periods of confusion, awk-
Creation can deceptively difficult. It can also be sur- pressed or
prisingly easy and natural. At times it as though the wardness, and diminished
capacity. A great deal of learn-
journey has been to something that has simply been denied.”
waiting for us. It doesn’t need to be created because ing begins. Much that begins is
it was already present, just not yet discovered. At sidetracked, deserted, or rejected along
other times creation can be as difficult and painful the way. Mastery is, unfortunately, far too rare
and scary as a problematic pregnancy and birth. 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
“Dy- organize and they can disorganize.
Discoveries can connect and they
ing to can disconnect. Most journeys
will include a mix of discoveries
be reborn” and they will bring the life-giv-
ing energy we require.
is often the
Learning and
dominant Mastery
theme in the
Learning and mastery are Barriers
hero’s jour- talked about a great deal, but
usually from a distance and the- The challenges of learning and mastery are, unfortu-
ney. ” oretically. Mastery can be viewed nately, underplayed in the literature on change. One
as the upper range of learning. Like barrier is simply how much attention, effort and

discipline it takes to master new ways. Part of the • Unhealthy competition

difficulty is that mastery is competing with ongoing It is interesting to note that most of the forces un-
operations for that attention and effort. Much of the dermining mastery will occur naturally and without
challenge is having the emotional competency to any initiation. They are also immediately in play and
deal with the unknown and the energy requirements, decrease only over time. For example the need for
setbacks and dips in performance that are natural to increased effort and the awkwardness experienced
the mastery process - over an extended period of when learning something new don’t need any help to
time. Mastery requires commitment and persever- appear. And they, along with the need for increased
ance on the part of the individual and requires an attention and a lack of sureness don’t delay their ar-
environment that supports the mastery process for rival. These forces are there from the beginning and
more than a few to achieve it. 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
Looking at a couple of models that relate to mas- play late in the process. For instance, training, coach-
tery will illustrate why mastery is such a central and ing, supportive peers and the necessary equipment
deceptively difficult challenge on the heroic journey. only show up on the supportive side if leadership
And why it requires so much disciplined attention acts. Pride in achievement and increased perfor-
from leadership. mance only develop after a great deal of effort. It
doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it is.

The Mastery Force-Field This is why so much depends on aggressive leader-

ship action that remains in play for a long time. The
A simple force-field diagram presents a clear pic- focus of that leadership will need to be on increas-
ture of the forces that undermine mastery vs. those ing the support factors. That is because, other
that support it. All we have to do is reflect on what it than encouragement, there isn’t much leverage for
was like learning a new language or sport to remem- leadership on the undermining side. Leadership is
ber how powerful these forces can be. the equalizer and will determine whether significant
mastery occurs or whether a lesser effort is made
Forces Supporting Mastery with the naturally disappointing results that will fol-
low 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” The Inevitable Performance Dips

and Senior Management Psychosis
This is a wonderful concept from Mastery by George
Leonard, who has studied the process of mastery, On all journeys there are dips in performance at
particularly in the martial arts. It is an important certain points. These natural performance dips may
ethic to adopt for those on a heroic journey because be individual, group or organization-wide. Journeys
it normalizes a very challenging aspect of mastery. are designed to reach sustainable improvements in
That challenge is the periods when, no matter how performance, but that improvement doesn’t happen
hard we try or practice, we just don’t seem to be immediately. Journeys of change come with the
making progress. These are the times when it is very dual challenge to continue ongoing operations while
easy to lose heart and leave the journey. In its sim- changing those operations. It sometimes feels like
plest form “learning to love the plateau” has these rebuilding the plane in flight. As organizations and
elements: communities change they are inevitably thrown out
of alignment to some degree for some period of time
• As we begin the process of mastery we often at the same time that increased effort is required.
experience a spurt of increased ability that feels That combination usually results in a decrease in
good and encourages more effort. performance.

• 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.
Such performance dips need to be managed, but
• If we persevere and focus on “right practice” vs. they need to be managed wisely and this is where
outcomes, we eventually experience another spurt journeys can get into trouble. Managers, particularly
of competence. senior managers, are vulnerable to a form of insan-
ity, which leads them to expect immediate improve-
• It is usually impossible to see that spurt coming, ments from the changes that have begun. The reali-
which is why perseverance and “right practice” ties of the journey – the challenges of letting go of
are so important. old ways, mastering new ways and dealing with the
in-between state – seem to get lost and unrealistic
• The pattern repeats. Hopefully people have and damaging expectations sneak in. This is partly a
learned from the early plateaus and are able to response to management’s own fears and anxieties
respond better as the journey progresses. about performance and the success of the journey. It
is also a way to try to avoid the hard work of leading
The job of leadership is to teach people about this a journey and being worthy of followers.
process and what to expect as well as provide the
modeling and encouragement to “hold the course” A mark of good leadership is an acceptance of the
and not give up. One of the traps leaders must avoid inevitable performance dips along with a focus on
is the trap of management psychosis brought on by how to minimize the depth of the dip and shorten its
the inevitable performance dips that happen with duration.
improvememt efforts of any significance.

Mastery - One of life’s great This “inbetweenity” is characterized by questions

of balance, rhythm, dynamic tension, and paradox.
pleasures and a gift For instance, there will always be a tension between
order and disorder. Disorder is part of the natural
Achieving a sense of mastery is one of life’s great
process of going from one state of order to a new or-
pleasures and it is a gift to any organization or com-
der. It is difficult to be in a state of disorder too much,
munity. But, it takes an investment of time and en-
but it is dangerous to never be in disorder if you live
ergy by us as well as discipline and perseverance to
in a world that demands change.
overcome the natural barriers. Those characteristics
must be evident in the individuals on the journey and
Similarly, there is a natural and dynamic tension be-
must be mirrored by leadership.
tween being connected and being disconnected, just
as there is between being oriented and being disori-

Act II: The Challenge ented 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
of Being In-Between along the path.

This is the land where a good deal of letting go or These dynamic tensions are not to be avoided, but
endings have taken place, but new creation, new rather understood and managed as well as possible.
beginnings, births or rebirths have not yet been That is an art form and each person must find their
completed. The unknown is really the not yet known. own rhythm (which may change over the course of
It may be a blank or uncertain or ambiguous or ever- the journey). Some people are more at ease with
shifting, but it is not certain or constant. Although these dynamic tensions and can allow them to play
that is the natural state, it is uncomfortable and anxi- out for longer periods of time. Others have a great
ety producing. Living with the unknown is one of the deal of trouble with the lack of certainty and resolu-
most difficult aspects of the journey, but retreating tion and are vulnerable to actions that shorten the
from it is a retreat to false security in a false world. experience of these tests at the expense of success
on the journey.
That is a very constricted world and often much more
dangerous that the unknown. The in-between state Tension can be creative or destructive, but we know
is an essential, but often uncomfortable, place to be. it will exist in a number of forms on the journey. The
It is essential because it provides a “creative void”, in challenge is to manage these dynamic tensions in our
which significant change can happen. own experience and help others to do so also.

Significant leaps of innovation and creativity are Top Dynamic Tensions

much more likely to happen in this in-between state
than in instances where it is avoided or short cir- 1. Known Unknown
cuited by leaping to the first replacement that ap- 2. Order Disorder
pears. Not only does this in-between land provide 3. Place Displacement
an environment for greater creativity, it also provides 4. Connection Disconnection
more time and space for people to truly let go of the 5. Hope/Belief Doubt/Despair
old and be ready to embrace the new. As with ending, 6. Excitement/Anticipation Fear/Anxiety
people’s ability to manage in this in-between state 7. Meaning Lack of Meaning
will be supported by all the leadership roles, but the 8. Orientation Disorientation
Guide will be most directly involved. 9. Integration Disintegration

Encountered: Obviously we can’t stay on the left side of the chart

Dynamic Tensions 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 order and a transition to a new order. In between is
or for too long. The trick is living in between in a, the inevitable disorder, sometimes defined by such
hopefully, creative tension that gives birth to the new terms as “confusion, irregularity, disturbance, inter-
reality we seek. This is where the emotional compe- ruption of the normal functions”, even disease. As
tence of leaders can be sorely tested. 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 in-
dication of its importance to individuals, groups, or-
ganizations 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 function-
ing properly”, “an established method or system”.

3. Place and Displacement

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 impor-
tant 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.
1. The Known and Unknown
And yet, that is exactly what must happen in cases
Crossing the threshold means leaving a known world of major change. In heroic journeys people, groups,
for a world of varying degrees of unknown. Not even whole communities can feel displaced and must
everything will change, but a great deal may. Part find new points of reference, new ways of belonging,
of the challenge is finding out what isn’t changing, and new connections. The intensity and duration of
where continuity still exists. The greater challenge, such displacement can vary dramatically, but some
however, is in accepting the unknown and exploring sense of displacement will occur. Like disorder, dis-
it for its possibilities. Defending against its threats placement can be distressing and anxiety provoking.
is also wise, but rarely should it be the dominant
posture assumed.
4. Connection and Disconnection
Dealing with the unknown is required for change and
adaptation - for survival in some cases. As with most Connection is about relationships. Disconnection
of the issues in this section, this is not an “either-or” is about the loss of relationships. Reconnection
issue. It is a question of respecting and confronting is about the mending of old relationships or the
the unknown without being overwhelmed by it, a beginning of new ones. The connection may be
question of maintaining an adequate sense of the to other people or groups of various sizes, to a
known while dealing with the unknown. geographic place, to ideas and values, to ways of
doing things, to memories, to technologies, or to
hopes and possibilities.
2. Order and Disorder
The danger is not so much in losing forms of relation-
Major change implies the ending of one form of ship, but in losing too many relationships for too long.

There will be a loss of relationship in the journey just Excitement, anticipation, fear, and anxiety are all
as there will be a loss of order, a loss of place, a loss forms of energy, although the experience of them
of meaning, or a loss of orientation. That is not nec- is certainly different. Excitement and anticipation
essarily destructive, but it will be uncomfortable. often feel like forces that draw or push forward, while
fear and anxiety often feel like forces that argue for
People and groups are most vulnerable when their avoiding, stopping, going back, or changing direction.
connections are too few or too important. Too few Excitement and anticipation also tend to encourage
connections means that fewer losses can be sus- contact and engagement while fear and anxiety rein-
tained and attaching too much importance to any force the desire to withdraw or disengage. They will
one connection means that the loss of that one con- all be at play to varying degrees during the journey
nection can be extremely threatening. and managing their energies is one of the key compe-
tencies that need to be developed.
This is another setting where the concept of a web is
useful. We have webs of relationships, from people Although often used interchangeably, it is helpful
to place, and we can stand to lose some relationships to differentiate between fear and anxiety to help in
if others stay in place and we develop replacements managing them. Fear can be seen as having a more
over time for those that we have lost. defined source or object (“I’m afraid of...”). The
source(s) of anxiety is less specific and often hard
5. Hope and Belief and Doubt to describe. It is more generalized and, therefore
very often more difficult to manage. Where fear may
and Despair generate acute feelings, anxiety tends to show up as
apprehension, uneasiness or agitation.
Much of the time in Act II of a journey hope and belief
exist together with doubt and even despair. Their 7. Meaning and Loss or Lack of
relative strength may vary greatly over time and may
be influenced by many potential factors. It may be Meaning “In
difficult to find a rational basis for hope just as it can
be impossible to disprove doubts. Objectivity often It is necessary to find mean- psycho-
has little influence in the dynamics of this relation- ing, whether it relates to
ship. people, places, things, logical terms
memories, values and
The definitions of doubt are familiar to any who have beliefs, or ways of do- integration
experienced significant transitions or lived heroically; ing things from work
“a condition of uncertainty”, “lack of conviction”, “to processes to cer- means the orga-
waver or fluctuate in opinion or belief”, “to be in- emonies and rituals.
clined to lack of belief”, “to withhold assent from”. Without sufficient nization of various
Despair is even more troubling as it is simply a lack meaning or signifi-
of hope. cance, life is difficult traits or tendencies
at best. Meaning
In contrast, hope is defined as “to wish for something provides a basis for into one harmo-
with expectation of its fulfillment”, “to have confi- sacrifice (giving up
dence, trust”, “to look forward to with confidence or something for something nious personal-
expectation”. The times will be rare when both hope or greater value). It pro-
and doubt are not present together, although each vides a basis for purpose, for ity.”
will come to the fore at different times. investing, for setting and main-
taining direction and orientation,
6. Excitement, Anticipation, Fear, and for renewal of energy and commit-
ment. Meaning may or may not be lost on a journey,
and Anxiety 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. can be created can cause a good deal of doubt and
confusion for leaders when best efforts don’t seem
8. Orientation and Disorientation 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”
If we think of orientation in terms of “relationship to”, makes all the difference.
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, organiza-
Act III: Completing
tions and communities, technologies, values and
beliefs, and on, and on, and on. Journeys: Integrating
Even a change in one relationship can create a sense and Embedding
of disorientation if it is a significant relationship. Ma-
jor changes usually create a great deal of uncertainty Strange as it sounds, successfully completing a
about a number of these relationships. The trick is heroic journey can be the most difficult part of the
not only to reestablish a new orientation where the journey. This is partly due to the reactions of others
old relationship no longer holds, but to also remain to the changes of the hero and partly due to the need
aware of those relationships that are not changing to re-order the hero’s world to fit the changes. The
significantly and that can maintain some degree of hard-won individual, organizational or community
orientation. changes can be surprisingly vulnerable for a period
of time.
9. Integration and Disintegration

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 organi-

zation of various traits or tendencies into one har-
monious personality. Disintegration carries a very
different experience resulting from its various defini-
tions; “to separate into parts or fragments”, “to lose
or cause to lose wholeness”, “to become reduced to
components, fragments, or particles”. The Central Test at the Completion
As with orientation, integration must be lost to some
of Journeys
degree in change, giving way to disintegration of
varying degrees, and eventually leading to a new The final test is to fully integrate, deepen, and protect
more adaptive or mature integration. Understanding the changes that have been achieved. Successful
the necessity of the process may be of great comfort change creates a “ripple effect”, which means that
to people experiencing a loss of integration. other people and groups may be affected in signifi-
cant ways. Their responses may or may not be posi-
With all these factors naturally at play the challenge tive because our changes will require complimentary
for leaders is to respect these dynamic tensions, changes on their part. Part of this final heroic test is
manage our own reactions to them and help others to manage this “ripple effect” and assure that impor-
manage their experience. The soup of emotions that tant relationships are protected.

partially achieving it is to understand the impact or

Successful change will also result in a lack of align- likely implications for those with whom they are in
ment of the “things” of an organization or communi- relationship (even remote or indirect).
ty. 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.

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 sur-
prise. 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 commu-
nity 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 oth- The Four Classic Responses of
ers. That effect is often to launch others on their own Others
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 There are four responses that can be expected of
face is essential and not just at the end of the journey. those impacted by our changes. Unfortunately
Throughout the journey this issue must be addressed for the heroic individual, group, organization or
as changes unfold. community, three of these responses can be highly
For example, when a spouse makes a significant problematic.
change there is often a significant strain placed on
the relationship. Changes in a corporation might 1. Force-fit. Others can try to force the hero back
have major ripple effects on suppliers. A change in into his or her old position, role, or “way”. That
how one department in an organization works, for would be a forced fit and uncomfortable for the
instance information systems, can ripple through- hero and for others. It would be life diminishing
out the rest of the organization. Another example is for the hero and not likely to last.
that of someone who goes on a journey to discover
a truth that, when presented, demands a change in a 2. Shun. Others can shun the hero, which is a
society - Gandhi for instance. Ironically, a hero may, psychological experience of exceptional pain. It is
if they are successful, throw someone else into a being thrown or driven out, exiled, denied rela-
journey that they didn’t ask for and may not want. tionship and connection or belonging.

That will, in almost all cases, be resisted, sometimes 3. Kill off. Others can kill the hero figuratively or
strongly and sometimes violently. One of the criti- literally or drive them out.
cal issues for anyone approaching a desired state or

4. Answer the call. Others can accept the inher- Fitting Everything Together
ent challenge to change and become bigger, more
complex, more mature, more adaptive. That chal-
– Alignment and Attunement
lenge is to change in significant ways to match the
changes of those that have completed a journey. Change means ending one form to find another that
It is the challenge to also go forth, leaving a known is more functional. Creating that new form means
world, and face the challenges of the path. One assuring that everything fits, that things are aligned
successful heroic journey can naturally precipitate and people are attuned. The “things” of the organi-
many more. zation must be aligned so that the strategies, struc-
ture, systems, processes, technologies, physical
plant, and policies and procedures reinforce each
Easing the Return – Preparing the other rather than conflict.
In a similar fashion the people of the organization
must be attuned with each other and the
There are several critical factors that can affect how
organization. This includes such ele-
others respond to the implicit demands for change of
a hero’s return and part of a leaders’ role is to ensure
ments as the nature of relation- “The
ships, beliefs, attitudes, habits,
that the right questions are asked about those im-
pacted by the ripple effect of the journey. Questions
confidence and esprit de trap is
corps, and general health.
to ask include the following:
A major pitfall in Act III that it rarely
is failing to realize that
1. What is the likely impact on the surrounding
world of achieving the goals of our journey and
things can be aligned feels like there
relatively quickly, but
what might the change demands be on it? The im-
pact might be material or psychological/emotional.
people become attuned is time to learn
over an extended period
It might be on a physical, intellectual, emotional,
or spiritual level. It might affect individuals, rela-
of time. The challenges when there is a
are very different.
tionships, groups, organizations, or communities.
Just as we looked at our own experience through
demand to
There is one other challenge
these lenses in order to manage our experience,
we need to use the same lenses to attend to those
and opportunity in completion “do”.
and it requires a good deal of leader-
we affect.
ship discipline. That is learning from the
experience and turning that learning into increased
2. What is the degree of change readiness and
organizational capability, particularly leadership
capability of those most affected and what might
capability. If the heroic journey has been well led
they gain or lose?
and has employed a web of leaders and effective fol-
lowers, there should be a significant, if not dramatic,
3. What can we do to encourage others to go
increase in the leadership available to the organiza-
forth and what can we do to support them and
tion or community.
help them be successful? Our sustained success
will depend to some degree on their success.
However, failing to learn from the experience or fail-
ing to turn that learning into increased leadership
There is, of course, a limit to how much we can influ-
capability is a common trap and it will snap shut nat-
ence our world. Preparing the way does not guaran-
urally without leadership attention. The trap is that it
tee that our world will be friendly to the changes in
rarely feels like there is time to learn when there is a
us and the implications of those changes for those
demand to “do”. Doing may be king, but it is a poor
around us. It does, however, provide a discipline
king when learning does not accompany it.
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.

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 al-
lows 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 abil-
ity 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 “an-

swer 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 cour-
age 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.