Posts Tagged ‘leadership and mythology’

Being greedy can lead to disastrous results. Nurturing your network and cultivating abundance is critical for sustained success and peace of mind. Greed and its consequences show up in Greek mythology. The lessons are quite relevant today especially in a complex, chaotic business world. It can be seen in the battle to be the central hub and monopolize an economy. (Think “Google vs Microsoft”.) But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin with a story, a rather grizzly one.

Trying to Have It All

The Titan Kronos wanted to have it all. So, he shamed his own father, the god Ouranos (the Heavens), by castrating him. Kronos then took possession of everything. Before committing the act he was warned his yet-to-be born son would depose him.

After gaining control and as time went by he became increasingly preoccupied with what was foretold. So, in greed and fear he swallowed every one of his offspring…or so he thought. His wife, Rheia, tricked him when the sixth child, Zeus, was born. She substituted a stone (see, greed is blind!).

Up-ending the Status Quo

Zeus was raised in secret. When old enough he ambushed his father, Kronos. Zeus kicked him in the stomach so hard all of Zeus’s siblings were vomited up: Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon.

Releasing the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Looking closer at Zeus’s siblings reveals a lot regarding what is set free when change is embraced. Demeter was the goddess of bountiful harvests. Hestia was the goddess of domestic joy. Hera was the goddess of love, marriage and nurturing. So far, so good.

Things get a little dicier with Hades. Hades was the god of the Underworld, the place for both riches (gold, etc.) and death. Hmmm. Finally, there is Poseidon, god of the sea (source of food), earthquakes (disasters), and horses (the ability to move and connect).

Because of such a bold act Zeus was made god of the immortals. While he did set positive forces free he was not the friendliest god on Mount Olympus – tossing lighting bolts at those who offended him.

Myth and Business

If you look around your own personal pantheon you probably can identify the gods mentioned. It is important to understand them and their powers when seeking to bring about change.  Keeping your eyes open and practicing anticipatory awareness (see Anticipation blog in the Leadership Cancer series) will help you see in a neutral manner the forces at plan in your business universe.

This is worth repeating. When working with change anticipatory awareness is extremely important. People just are as they are. By accepting and watching them you can decide what risks are worth taking.  It has the benefit of maximizing growth should you succeed and keeping your self-esteem and personal integrity intact should you fall down. Over time there will be more of the former and less of the latter.

If you get indigestion swallowing stones or are having a hard time dodging lightning bolts or want to share a personal triumph send me an e-mail at or visit

Week In Review – Jun 13 – Jun 19, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on June 20, 2010

Buyers for your company: How to build a great list?

by Steve Popell, Jun 14, 2010

In a previous post, Steve discussed the fact that becoming an attractive strategic acquisition candidate should begin with learning precisely what prospective buyers think that means, and how to elicit that information in a series of telephone interviews.  But, an equally important element is determining whom to interview.  This post addresses that question. more…

Leadership and Mythology #6: Panic and Self doubt

by Gary Monti, Jun 15, 2010

When you leave your comfort zone, even little things take on much bigger significance and cause you to doubt yourself. But once you become comfortable dealing with uncertainty, the rewards will be tremendous. Leaving your familiar confines is like being touched by the Greek god Pan. Leaders are characterize by their ability to stand up to Pan.  more…

Social Media and Tribers #2: DEATH of Email; RISE of branded Tribes

by Deepika Bajaj, Jun 16, 2010

A while back, email was an effective medium to market your products. But not anymore. Because of the rise of junk mail people don’t trust the emails they get. New web marketing is based on the foundation of TRUST with our tribe. In this post, Deepika gives a high level overview of how to go about building trust within your tribe. more…

Flexible Focus #6: Peace in the Elements

by William Reed, Jun 17, 2010

A great way to gain flexible focus is to study elements of words, their roots, nuances, and varieties of expression. This can be done in any language, but in Chinese and Japanese you have the additional dimension of written characters (kanji), not only the elements or radicals which make up the kanji, but the remarkable range of expression made possible in writing with a brush. more…

Author’s Journey #26: Speak your way to book publishing success

by Roger Parker, Jun 18, 2010

Speaking is one of the best ways you can promote your book while planning and writing it. It creates a special bond with your audience, paving the way for book sales and lasting relationships. In this segment, Roger encourages you to speak your way to book publishing success by speaking about your book at every opportunity. more…

Leadership and Mythology #6: Panic and Self doubt

by Gary Monti on June 15, 2010

So, you’ve left the confines of the familiar – broke out on your own. Now what? Are you left staring at your computer screen? Do you check and check again to see if there are any emails from prospects? Do you twist in the wind wondering what, exactly, someone meant by an off-handed remark? Do little things take on greater and greater significance to the point of confusion? If you experience these or similar behaviors with responses exaggerated, disoriented, and anxiety-laden then you’ve been touched by a god – Pan, to be exact. You are having a Pan-ic attack!

Are You Sure?

Pan lived on the edge of the forest as well as within it. He was half goat and had horns. His friends were the nymphs and the satyrs – the party people. Their life was much more exciting than the mundane activities in the village where one submits to the group. When a weary villager struck out on his or her own and reached the edge of the forest Pan would sneak up and touch them. Immediately, their heart would be in their throat! They would be riddled with self-doubt and the urge to run back into the familiar would flush across them. Pan was asking the questions, “Are you sure you want to do this? How do you know you aren’t doomed? Do you know who you really are? Are you taking the right direction?”

Here’s the Deal

Pan would offer a deal, “Give up your vision of being unique and following your own path and I’ll make sure you have a place in the village. You won’t necessarily be happy but you will have some security. On the flip side, strike out on your own and you’ll have to figure out how to deal with those mysterious things that live in the forest.”

Just Kidding

If one was courageous enough to walk into the forest and find their own path there would be a sudden change in Pan’s behavior. He’d come up and invite the individual to join the party! “Come and dance with us!”

Business Leadership

In today’s business world Pan shows up in the form of someone who disagrees and in one form or another asks, “Who ARE you?” They don’t settle for seeing credentials and hearing what you know. Rather, the gauntlet is thrown down and a challenge of character is made. In other words, “Are you man enough?”, or, “…woman enough?”

Being able to hold one’s ground free of defensiveness is critical for two reasons:

  1. Leaders deal with uncertainty, being smart and knowing a lot isn’t enough. What one chooses to believe and how to move out proactively determines the path taken, and;
  2. The limits of what can be accomplished are set by what one believes.

If you are having trouble with your dance moves or need help with orienteering through the business forest send me an e-mail at or visit

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 or visit

We left off in the last blog with the tribe being very practical and safely bringing the sun back from the eclipse through ritual drumming.  The Chief, Shaman, and members of the village saw the need for executing the ritual – cause and effect. The idea of not drumming is so terrifying simply talking about it could have serious repercussions. The Chief could land very hard on anyone foolish enough to talk about modifying, let alone abandoning, the ritual.

This brings us to the third purpose of myth – social order – or more simply, sociology. As seen with the village sociology can tie very closely to the second purpose of myth, cosmology. This co-mingling can lead to a very thorny issue, i.e., the use of power. Before looking at power directly some background is needed.

Dirt and Mothers

The phrase “human being” has its roots in the Latin word “humus” meaning “rich earth.” It’s all about establishing roots, being accepted and nurtured, and eventually striking out on our own. It’s the Circle of Life. This reality is reflected in earth-based religions by the primary god Mother Earth. (Father Sky is the other primary god but we’ll save him for a later blog.) How the world moves (cosmology) and the rules for being in it (sociology) are intertwined and taught from the moment of birth. The weave can be so tight they appear as one. It is good for stability but can create an obstacle for change. Vision can be clouded. Let’s see how that can affect business.

Obi Wan, Darth, and Case Studies

Imagine during the eclipse the Chief turns to a village and says, “The drumming is not enough, you must sacrifice all you have so the sun returns!” How much pressure does the villager feel? Are the situation and feelings any different than when a boss (being practical) tells a subordinate to unquestioningly produce more? Like the Chief the boss can consolidate his investment in power by keeping the social directive (sacrifice and productivity) tightly bound to the cosmology (business processes and goals).

The boss could also work like the brave Chief who separates the two and does the equivalent of allowing Newtonian mechanics to be embraced. Doing this, though, could put his power base at risk. He could lose his grip and no longer be the keeper of the rules of the universe. It would no longer be His cause or His effect. And while like the villagers employees would be free to expand their lives the boss has to find another reason for the employees to respect and follow him. A more entertaining version of all this can be found in the Star Wars saga with the struggle between Obi Wan and Darth. With the best of intentions Darth believed life is a case study. Cause and effect could be audited and projected into the future and the social structure controlled. Obi Wan was much wiser. He saw that there are guiding principles and a (business) leader earns the trust and following of others. In other words, in a changing situation power is let loose and the leader leans into the situation and lets a new social order arise as the cosmology changes.

Helping Clients Change

If you are having difficulty with your light saber or simply need to address the challenge of change send me an e-mail at or visit

Ever have a resistant client? They want you to provide desired services but question and double-guess the recommendations and actions you make. Why would they behave that way? It has to do with the second function of myth, the Physical , also called the Cosmological. What it refers to is the beliefs (myths) one has as to how the world turns. In this case how the business world turns.

Cosmology, Clients, and Solar Eclipses

Having a cosmology is an important part of sense-making.  It provides a cause and effect framework for decisions. As long as it functions well there are eccentricities that will be accepted as “fact” when there really are just some coincidences in the system.

There’s a story about a cultural anthropologist who comes across a village right before a solar eclipse. The chief and village elders could not be distracted. They were preparing to save life itself. The anthropologist asked what was going on. The chief simply said, “Come and watch.”

As the moon began to creep in front of the sun the shaman began to direct the men of the village to beat the drums exactly as they had been taught – the way their fathers before them for many generations had done. As the eclipse progressed the drumming intensified and all the villagers were frozen in place wondering if the drumming would work this time. Eventually, the eclipse passed and the sun returned much to everyone’s relief.

The anthropologist felt it his duty to teach the villagers the rudiments of the Newtonian cosmology and explain how gravity worked along with drawing the orbits of the sun, the moon, and the earth. To his delight everyone listened intently and he left the village feeling proud.

He returned with the next eclipse and, much to his surprise, the drumming ritual was repeated. Exasperated he looked at the chief and said, “The theory I told you works!” The chief calmly looked at him and replied, “And if it doesn’t?”

Helping Clients Change

Bertrand Russell, the Nobel Prize winning 20th Century mathematician-philosopher, felt that cosmologies aren’t refuted they simply are abandoned. In other words, don’t argue with clients to put down their drums. Look for their hot buttons and pressure points. If there is enough pent up emotion over how their current methods aren’t working then they might consider the solution(s) you are offering. If not, then listen to their drumming and be patient.

I’ve learned it is important to let go of judging the client. Out at the edges everyone’s worldview starts to unravel. Maintaining a degree of humility is important in keeping a levelheaded approach.

If you need help in working through solar eclipses either in-house or with clients contact me at or visit