THE POWER OF SAYING “YES”

their experience. It is about refusing to be or
stay victimized.
The questions of life. As individuals we all face
a set of basic questions about our lives. We can
choose to answer or ignore them. The heroic
journey provides a setting for answering these
questions as well as living out the answers. It
is always about what kind of a life are we going to create. Contemplating these questions
is kind of like looking at the sun. You can’t do
it for long and it’s often best to look indirectly
– you can clearly see the sun but don’t get overwhelmed.

? 

ÿ

Who am I?

ÿ

How should I lead my life?

ÿ

What is the nature of the universe and
what is my place in it?

ÿ

What is my reason for being – my purpose
in life?

ÿ

What are my gifts and how do I bring
them to my family, organizations or
communities?

The path is known. Throughout history in virtually every culture heroes have left known
worlds to venture into the unknown, face trials,
discover truths and revelations, experience various 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
provide.

RECLAIMING OUR HEROISM
“WHO ME?” “YES, YOU.”
Note: Sometimes a heroic journey
is about simple survival or getting
by. Other times it allows more direct
attention to these questions. Every
journey, however, will provide more
answers and lead to more maturity
and wholeness – even the journeys
that don’t bring the some of the outcomes that are desired.

We are not strangers to the heroic journey, although it may seem strange to hear
that. The life of each individual is
“The life of each
individual is made made up of many small (and sometimes some very large) heroic jourup of many small neys, each testing and developing us
(and sometimes
in different ways. Throughout our
some very large) lives we are called at various times
to go forth and do something of sigheroic journeys,
nificance that requires major change
each testing and of us.

developing us in
different ways”

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At other times we are thrown into
journeys of change that we do not

THE POWER OF SAYING “YES”

choose. We may also be lured into journeys that
turn out to be much more challenging than we
could have anticipated. At still other times we
may blunder into a journey of change, making
some mistake or failing at something that opens
surprising doors.
1 In our organizations we are called, and very
often thrown, into major changes that fall into
an impressive array of categories. Changes
include starting organizations, going through
rapid growth, downsizing or ending the life of
organizations, merging with other organizations (including by acquiring them or being
acquired), and separating from organizations.
The heroic journey can mean facing changes
in strategy, structure, roles, systems and technologies, work processes, skills and competencies required, standards and expectations,
the nature of key relationships, career paths,
and even values and beliefs.
There are lots of people in a variety of roles
for whom the heroic journey has particular
importance. They may in leadership roles, follower roles or, most likely, in both roles. For
instance:
ÿ

Executives senior managers

ÿ

Middle managers and supervisors likely
to be “caught in the middle” of a change

ÿ

Management teams

ÿ

Project teams

ÿ

Change managers

ÿ

Change teams

ÿ

And individuals in any position that may
be significantly affected by a change

2 In our communities we are called to make a
difference in an extraordinary range of issues.
For instance, we may be called to make a difference in our educational system, the way we 

govern ourselves, how we develop our youth,
or how we maintain the health and well-being
of the people in our communities. We may
also be called to deal with issues of safety, justice, economic health, neighborhood development, combating racism and other “isms”, or
caring for the environment.
As the definition of “community” gets larger,
the issues become increasingly complex and
difficult, for instance the peaceful coexistence
among nations and groups and the development of a sustainable global economy.
There are many possible positions in communities that will call an individual to lead a
heroic journey. Some of the natural positions
are listed below.
ÿ

People in positions of leadership within
government

ÿ

People in positions of leadership in
community organizations

ÿ

People who see a need and take action to
change something or create something

ÿ

People involved in changes in service
provision that ends the identity or life of
organizations, associations, “ways of
doing things”, etc.

ÿ

People taking an activist role when
having no history of doing so

ÿ

People confronting the norm(s) of a
group or community

Each of these roles could be expanded and
made much more specific, but these will serve
the purpose of illustration. They can range
from local in scale to global. It will be evident
that some of these roles or positions are formal leadership roles and some are not. They
all require the traversing of a heroic journey,
sometimes in highly visible ways and sometimes in almost anonymous fashion.

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THE POWER OF SAYING “YES”

3 Leadership fatigue. As with most aspects of
major change, nothing is as simple as it looks.
Many people will look at the previous examples and say, “Yes, but I’m not only in one
of those roles, I’m in four of those roles.” It
is safe to expect a good deal of role overlap,
which is an increasingly common situation.
Leadership fatigue can set in if a person is in
too many leadership roles for an extended period of time. This is another reason to focus
on creating webs of leaders and followers,
so that the responsibility can be shared more
broadly.

10

world, although some or many of the learnings
may have been bittersweet.
Those challenges may have been solely personal or may have played out in family, work, social, or community settings. In many cases they
probably overlapped several of these settings.
At other times in our lives we were not heroic.
Confronted by opportunities or major change
we did not respond by saying “yes” to the heroic journey. We may have refused the opportunity 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, despair, 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.

SOMETIMES HEROIC
AND SOMETIMES NOT
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 challenges and responded in such a way that we
went forth from our
“We are not talk- known worlds or
ing about being comfort zones into
unknown territory,
a grand hero,
were tested, saw cerlike the ‘larger tain aspects of our
than life’ figures lives end and new
portrayed in the ones begin, and thus
came away significlassic myths”
cantly changed. We
also came away more mature and more whole
and with more to contribute, more to offer the

Many of us have led changes where we have
called others to follow or thrown them into a
journey. In some of those situations we have
probably followed our own heroic journey and
been able to guide others through the collective
journey, whether organizational or community.
In other changes we probably did not choose
to follow the heroic pattern and, consequently,
could not truly guide others along the path.
Our experience as followers has probably been
similar. At times we have responded to a call or
chosen the heroic path even when thrown into

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