In his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” Joseph Campbell takes us through the journey a leader takes as they unlock their inner potential. Campbell, who is also a lecturer and mythologist suggests that this journey is what helps leaders to understand their “humanity” and come to terms with the vast importance of how their role as a leader impacts those around them.
I have had the good fortune of working with leaders in organizations around the world for almost two decades. Some are at the helm of small or medium sized businesses while others are at the wheel of massive Fortune 500 corporations. While their job roles might be slightly different, the journey they take from the onset of their calling as leaders and beyond is often very similar. This is the what Campbell describes as the Hero’s Journey.
It is crucial for executive coaches to understand this journey and how it impacts leaders. It is our job to guide the leader through this journey and help them to embrace the various stages. The leaders who truly walk through this experience with eyes and heart wide open come to the other side with a richer understanding of their role as both leaders and people. It is an experience that often impacts every fiber of who they are as people. With that in mind, here are some of stages that you might encounter as part of a leader’s “Hero’s Journey.”
- Ordinary world – This is often the starting point of the journey. At this point, the leader may start to feel unsettled in their current role. It is a place that leaves them longing for more and seeking out individuals who can identify with their struggles. In addition to discontent, there might also be a polarizing life event that creates a pull towards something more, something different than what they are currently doing or how they are doing it.
- Call to adventure – This is when the pull that is felt in their ordinary world gives way to a more specific calling with regard to the next steps in their leadership journey.
- Refusing the call – Often this is where I meet with leaders. They know they are being called to move towards something else, but fear or uncertainty causes them to ignore this nudge. Leaders bring me in to coach them through these roadblocks and move towards the goal to which they have been called.
- Finding helpers – This is generally the role of the coach in the journey. They are there to help the leader create a plan that will help them forge ahead. The leader may also find mentors, business strategists and help and guidance of other leaders very supportive through this stage.
- Crossing the threshold – This is a hugely exciting point in a leader’s journey. It can also be scary and unsettling. It is the point when they decide to “go for it” and leave the comfort of their current “ordinary world” moving in the direction of their new calling.
- Facing tests, finding allies, dealing with enemies – No journey is without trials. Leaders will find that there are often things that stand in their way of realizing their goal and nay-sayers might cause them to doubt. However, there are also allies in their journey that can encourage them as they take each new step.
- Developing a plan – Often an ally (coach) that is brought into the leader’s frame of reference helps provide the tools to create a solid approach as they seek to reach the next level in their journey.
- The struggle – Any long journey comes with its share of ordeals. Often these roadblocks come when the beginning stages of the journey are in their rearview mirror and the final destination is still well down the road. The struggle can make the leader doubt the journey and second guess their calling. However, only when they are able to truly face and confront these fears can they move through them.
- Overcoming – This stage of the journey is when the leader is able to overcome the roadblocks they face and take possession of the goals they are seeking.
- Coming back home – This is often the most exciting part of the hero’s (leader’s) journey. It is the point when they come back to their new “ordinary world” recreated and fully engulfed in their new story. It is a point of comfort when they realize the person they have become as result of their journey.
As a coach at ALCN, being a part of a leader’s “Hero’s Journey” is a highly rewarding experience. It is a place that brings me personally and professionally such great joy. As we look to the end of 2016, I want to challenge you to start asking what are the next steps in your Hero’s Journey. If you would like help in exploring this, ALCN would be honored to be a part of your exploration.
Check back for part two of the Hero’s Journey conversation as we consider how a coach can support a leader through each of the stages of their process.