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their experience. It is about refusing to be or

stay victimized. ÿ Who am I?

The questions of life. As individuals we all face ÿ How should I lead my life?
a set of basic questions about our lives. We can
choose to answer or ignore them. The heroic ÿ What is the nature of the universe and
journey provides a setting for answering these what is my place in it?
questions as well as living out the answers. It
is always about what kind of a life are we go- ÿ What is my reason for being – my purpose
ing to create. Contemplating these questions in life?
is kind of like looking at the sun. You can’t do
it for long and it’s often best to look indirectly ÿ What are my gifts and how do I bring
– you can clearly see the sun but don’t get over- them to my family, organizations or
whelmed. communities?

The path is known. Throughout history in vir-

tually every culture heroes have left known
worlds to venture into the unknown, face trials,
discover truths and revelations, experience var-
ious deaths and rebirths and “return” bringing
something of value. Corporate and community
change requires the same venturing forth into
the unknown, the same trials and contests, the
death of certain things and the rebirth or birth of
others, and the return or arrival at a new state
of being. The heroic journey of the myths is
mirrored at the individual level in the midst of
corporate or community change and is the best
framework for self-management that we can



We are not strangers to the heroic journey, al-

Note: Sometimes a heroic journey though it may seem strange to hear
is about simple survival or getting “The life of each that. The life of each individual is
by. Other times it allows more direct individual is made made up of many small (and some-
attention to these questions. Every times some very large) heroic jour-
up of many small neys, each testing and developing us
journey, however, will provide more
answers and lead to more maturity (and sometimes in different ways. Throughout our
and wholeness – even the journeys some very large) lives we are called at various times
that don’t bring the some of the out- to go forth and do something of sig-
heroic journeys, nificance that requires major change
comes that are desired.
each testing and of us.
developing us in
different ways” At other times we are thrown into
journeys of change that we do not

choose. We may also be lured into journeys that govern ourselves, how we develop our youth,
turn out to be much more challenging than we or how we maintain the health and well-being
could have anticipated. At still other times we of the people in our communities. We may
may blunder into a journey of change, making also be called to deal with issues of safety, jus-
some mistake or failing at something that opens tice, economic health, neighborhood develop-
surprising doors. ment, combating racism and other “isms”, or
caring for the environment.
1 In our organizations we are called, and very
often thrown, into major changes that fall into As the definition of “community” gets larger,
an impressive array of categories. Changes the issues become increasingly complex and
include starting organizations, going through difficult, for instance the peaceful coexistence
rapid growth, downsizing or ending the life of among nations and groups and the develop-
organizations, merging with other organiza- ment of a sustainable global economy.
tions (including by acquiring them or being
acquired), and separating from organizations. There are many possible positions in com-
munities that will call an individual to lead a
The heroic journey can mean facing changes heroic journey. Some of the natural positions
in strategy, structure, roles, systems and tech- are listed below.
nologies, work processes, skills and compe-
tencies required, standards and expectations, ÿ People in positions of leadership within
the nature of key relationships, career paths, government
and even values and beliefs.
ÿ People in positions of leadership in
There are lots of people in a variety of roles community organizations
for whom the heroic journey has particular
importance. They may in leadership roles, fol- ÿ People who see a need and take action to
lower roles or, most likely, in both roles. For change something or create something
ÿ People involved in changes in service
ÿ Executives senior managers provision that ends the identity or life of
organizations, associations, “ways of
ÿ Middle managers and supervisors likely doing things”, etc.
to be “caught in the middle” of a change
ÿ People taking an activist role when
ÿ Management teams having no history of doing so

ÿ Project teams ÿ People confronting the norm(s) of a

group or community
ÿ Change managers
Each of these roles could be expanded and
ÿ Change teams made much more specific, but these will serve
the purpose of illustration. They can range
ÿ And individuals in any position that may from local in scale to global. It will be evident
be significantly affected by a change that some of these roles or positions are for-
mal leadership roles and some are not. They
2 In our communities we are called to make a all require the traversing of a heroic journey,
difference in an extraordinary range of issues. sometimes in highly visible ways and some-
For instance, we may be called to make a dif- times in almost anonymous fashion.
ference in our educational system, the way we

3 Leadership fatigue. As with most aspects of world, although some or many of the learnings
major change, nothing is as simple as it looks. may have been bittersweet.
Many people will look at the previous exam-
ples and say, “Yes, but I’m not only in one Those challenges may have been solely person-
of those roles, I’m in four of those roles.” It al or may have played out in family, work, so-
is safe to expect a good deal of role overlap, cial, or community settings. In many cases they
which is an increasingly common situation. probably overlapped several of these settings.
Leadership fatigue can set in if a person is in
too many leadership roles for an extended pe- At other times in our lives we were not heroic.
riod of time. This is another reason to focus Confronted by opportunities or major change
on creating webs of leaders and followers, we did not respond by saying “yes” to the he-
so that the responsibility can be shared more roic journey. We may have refused the oppor-
broadly. tunity or the call, choosing to not take the risk or
leave our comfort zone. We may have started
out strongly and been turned back by fears, de-
spair, or mistakes or were simply worn down
before completing the journey. If thrown into
a change, we may have taken the role of victim
and made the best of it, which may or may not
have been very good.


Almost all of us, at various times in our lives,

have taken the risk to be heroic (we said “yes”
to the heroic journey). They were the times
when we were confronted by one of these chal-
lenges and responded in such a way that we Many of us have led changes where we have
went forth from our called others to follow or thrown them into a
“We are not talk- known worlds or journey. In some of those situations we have
ing about being comfort zones into probably followed our own heroic journey and
a grand hero, unknown territory, been able to guide others through the collective
were tested, saw cer- journey, whether organizational or community.
like the ‘larger tain aspects of our
In other changes we probably did not choose
than life’ figures lives end and new to follow the heroic pattern and, consequently,
portrayed in the ones begin, and thus could not truly guide others along the path.
classic myths” came away signifi-
cantly changed. We Our experience as followers has probably been
also came away more mature and more whole similar. At times we have responded to a call or
and with more to contribute, more to offer the chosen the heroic path even when thrown into