Posts Tagged ‘mythology and leadership’

Ever been attracted to someone who will save the day? You know, the White Knight that will save the situation? What about the flip side? Someone showing up in your life you absolutely can’t stand? A leader must pay very close attention to feelings that accompany these situations. Are you aware both situations can have a great deal in common? They can have what I call large “blind spots” associated with them, blind spots into which organizations can fall and disappear.

There’s a curious component to these blind spots since they can have as much or more to do with the leader’s character as the exterior reality. The dynamics of these blind spots and how to deal with them fall under the category of projection. So what is projection? How can one deal with it?


Projection is shady. It creates false feelings of well being around potentially disastrous decisions. At the core projection deals with the desire to take a shortcut to avoid going to dark places, especially within.


Previous blogs mention we all have portions of our psyche that are quite strong and other parts that are weak. Over time, we tend to build our lives around the stronger components and gradually develop a fear of those weaker ones. The primary reasons for the fear are imagined and real instabilities from which we believe we may not recover. Simply put, our reputation, business, etc., are at stake. We are staring at uncertainty.

The shortcut attempted is trying to find someone, the Other, who will deal with those dark spaces for us. We become infatuated with the Other. The Other is taken hostage. Conversely, the shortcut with the detested person is to simply get rid of him or her. This way the scary work can, again, be avoided. In both cases the leader stays myopic, loses vision, and is unable to see the consequences of decisions. A boss hiring someone to do the more difficult parts of the boss’s responsibilities (read: dirty work) is a good example of projection. It tears the team apart.

So Which is Which?

How does one know if the desired decision is wise and simple or blind and chaotic? In one word, “Options.” In two words, “Risk management.” In another two words, “Assumption analysis.” Let me explain.

Projection is sly and takes several forms. It is a narcotic that puts discernment to sleep. It is a demolition expert wiring explosives to all that has been built. It puts the trigger in the leader’s hand. It intensifies emotionality making pulling the trigger feel oh so sweet. (“Just fire him! Just hire her! Start without a contract! Requirements gathering will slow us down! Cash flow! Everything will be okay.”) Then it waits for the blind decision that irreversibly pulls the trigger and destroys healthy power, assets, and people.

By asking questions around options, risk management, and assumption analysis the door to healthier decision-making opens. Vision returns. Now, all this means going into those dark spaces. It’s hard work, rewarding work. It’s also the simplest work. (There’s never enough time to do it right the first time but there’s always time to fix it.) Keep in mind that just like Hades in Greek mythology, that’s where the real gold not the fool’s gold is!

Tired of doing things you regret? Wonder why the behaviors continue even though they sabotage your position? Vacillate from submission to aggression when making business deals? Want to stop all this and just stay on your unique path? Wonder where the Hell that path is? Well this is where myth comes into play. Let’s see what you can do.

Specifically, in this blog we’ll circle back onto the first in this series and expand on the purpose of myth as well as set the stage for the next series of blogs dealing with personality and traits. Sounds like we’re going a long way from improving business performance. Bear with me – we’ll get there.

Three Levels of Truth

Some background is needed. There are three levels of truth:

  • The Unspeakable
  • Principles
  • Rules

The Unspeakable refers to the wonder of the universe and being a part of it. It fills your being and is so overwhelming words fail. Yet that is where we have the deepest most meaningful experiences. Think of that feeling you get after riveting an audience with a presentation that covers something much bigger than you – a presentation the preparation of which you disappeared into and then became the instrument through which the presentation was channeled. How would you describe that feeling? Words usually fail. That’s an example of the Unspeakable and participating in it.

Principles are needed because unless you are a hermit there’s the need to express the Unspeakable so you can communicate and make life richer through community. It’s an endeavor that is incomplete, flawed, and frustrating but one that relentlessly pushes from inside to do it anyway.

Principles are essentially a dim yet powerful reflection of the Unspeakable.  Music and poetry exist in this space as well. If you’d like a more engaging expression of this spend $0.99 at iTunes and get a copy of Billy Joel’s River of Dreams and click on this link to see the lyrics.

The Rules comprise the lowest level of truth and derive from Principles. While even further from the Unspeakable rules, when done right, reflect it sufficiently to conduct daily business. Think of a contract. There’s no such thing as a perfect, iron-clad contract because if there were one, it would trap the Unspeakable in a verbal box. The trick, though, is to create the best set of rules you can to support spending more time connected to the Unspeakable in the business community.

Symbols and Cymbals

Back to mythology. In the first blog of this series I talked about needing a personal mythology in order to make sense of life, especially major transitions. There’s another important function of myth – the reconnection with and discovery of what is rich, powerful, and beautiful within you. So, myth works both from the outside in and the inside out simultaneously.

That inward journey can be quite challenging. It’s the realm of symbols. The words “symbol” and “cymbal” have the same root, the Greek “sumballein” which means “to throw together.” Nothing nice and neat about it! Think of those crazy dreams that feel so real. But that is where the richness comes into play.

In business, Excel, Powerpoint, Word, etc., are typically tools for being analytical and precise. In other words, generating the rules. And as stated before those rules only get their meaning by being a reflection of the Principles which reflect the Unspeakable. (This argument refutes the idea this mythology stuff is a waste because it seems so soft or fuzzy and far removed from the Rules.) If this fails to occur rules are a trap. Run!

By going into your shadows and reclaiming the pieces of yourself that parents, teachers, society, bosses, etc., said were useless or detrimental a reunification and integration occurs which – voila – reestablish your connection with the Unspeakable. (See Nietzsche’s Camel, Lion, and Baby in the Mythology blog #5.) Then you can trust that your Rules are, indeed, a reflection of the Unspeakable. When you clang your personal cymbal there will be a joy right along with the professionalism that adds to life!

If you are trying to find your cymbal and want to make some noisy music send me an e-mail at or visit