Leadership and Mythology #5: Psychology and Entrepreneurs

by Gary Monti on June 8, 2010

How does it feel when you take the plunge and go out on your own? Is there a mix? One day it’s, “Thank God! I am on my own!” The next it is, “Oh God, no! I am on my own!” It can feel you’ve been set adrift having cut the mooring line to the familiar. Learning how to simultaneously capitalize on opportunities and deal with the existential angst in this entrepreneurial state is the fourth purpose of mythology, i.e., dealing with the psyche or one’s personal psychology. How the psyche develops is critical for making it through threshold experiences.

The psyche forms the foundation for building/discovering needed leadership tools mentioned previously in the first leadership blog, Navigating with an Executive Map and Compass. The path associated with this process is very much a quest. Friedrich Nietzsche expresses it well in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Let’s see how it works in business.

The Camel, The Lion, and The Baby

When entering the business world one works like a camel dutifully and unquestioningly carrying a workload that gets bigger and bigger. It can lead to promotions. It gets puzzling though, since a limit will eventually be reached beyond which the camel will collapse. The first threshold is met. In order to progress change is required.

What was once exciting, providing a reason to get up in the morning, steadily becomes oppressive and the urge to cry “Enough!” starts forming. Crossing the threshold The Camel surprises others by transforming into The Lion. It attacks the giant beast “Thou Shalt,” which is covered in shiny scales each of which has a rule that must be followed if one is to stay in the current situation. The beast fights furiously since, after all, its rules have brought about the success experienced.

Once the beast is devoured another threshold is reached. The Lion is free, completely free. There is nothing left to fight, to stand against. The Lion stands alone. Movement forward means The Lion must change.

Another extraordinary and extremely demanding transformation must now take place in order to thrive and grow. The Lion transforms into The Baby. In mythology a baby signifies spontaneity, movement from within free of concern for consequence, free of rebelliousness. It is aware, bringing forward all experiences from the past. (See Buddhism or 2001: a Space Odyssey for more.)

Similar to The Baby Nietzsche writes about The Wheel. The Wheel is unique. It moves from within. It is neither pushed nor pulled. It seeks its own path without knowing where it will go. We know it in business as The Entrepreneur.

You’re So Lucky

How challenging and threatening can this be? This story may sound familiar. On one assignment there was a client employee who constantly complained about how lucky I was because of hourly rate, freedom to move from client to client, etc. This grew tiresome. When it started to interfere with my position on the project I said, “You are right. I’ll sit here while you tell your boss you quit. We can go have coffee and talk about how you can be completely on your own.” After that, he stayed with just doing his part of the project.

If you have indigestion from eating beasts or your wheel is beginning to wobble send me an e-mail at gwmonti@mac.com or visit www.ctrchg.com.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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