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Psychological Applications in Management

The Hero's Journey

by Tomi L. Wahlstrom

Paperback e-Book PDF
Institution: Colorado Technical University
Advisor(s): Frank Prochaska
Degree: Ph.D., Management
Year: 1996
Volume: 246 pages
ISBN-10: 1581120486
ISBN-13: 9781581120486


Today's business environment requires more effective leadership than ever. In the constantly changing business environment, the leader has the central responsibility of keeping people motivated and productive. Many companies have been downsizing and laying off employees, and leaving behind employees with a wounded morale. To lift this morale, the leader needs to possess characteristics and qualities that cannot be learned from courses taken in business schools alone. These characteristics and qualities can only be learned from life itself in an individual journey of individuation. The leader needs to undergo an initiation process from immature psychology to mature psychology. Traditionally, this process is what makes "men out of boys" and "women out of girls." In analytical psychology this journey is called the hero's journey, which is based on the hero myth and includes several different initiations and growing steps.

This study investigates the different initiations included in the hero's journey and the importance of learning how, from them, to be a responsible, effective, charismatic, and powerful leader. The study also illustrates the archetypes, a term developed by Dr. Carl Jung (1959) to describe the original patterns that guide our behavior, involved in the hero's journey and what is required to get through the journey.

Heroism is not discussed here in the overall sense in which the public defines heroism. As such, this study does not investigate what motivates people to risk and/or sacrifice their lives by attempting to save people from crashed airplanes. Although this aspect of sacrifice is always present in heroism, this aspect is just one of the many aspects of heroism. Neither a heroic act of saving lives nor being celebrated on the covers of a national newspaper is required to be recognized as a hero. Individuals are all heroes in their own way. Some individuals manifest their heroism in very silent ways (introversion), while other individuals seem always to be in the public eye (extroversion). The essence of heroism always involves taking a journey into the unknown and bringing some sort of knowledge out of the unknown that benefits either society or an organization. The hero brings new prosperity to the organizational wasteland.

Heroism in mass media and movie entertainment is very different from heroism in the psychological sense and in the mythological sense, although there are some similar elements. The basic elements of the hero, the villain and the fair maiden, are always present in popular movies, but the steps of the hero's journey are often not involved, which leaves nothing more than a meaningless plot good only for entertainment purposes. These types of movies can steal an individual's sense of understanding of both the myth and the purpose of the hero's journey.

This study is neither discussing the heroes of our popular culture, nor is this a study of Hollywood's creations or of celebrated athletes, or even of famed political and war heroes. The focus within this study is a hero's journey in the career of a leader, and how the journey can bring the light (individuation) into the darkness of the organizational wasteland.

The legacy of Roberto Goizueta, who died in October 1997, during the writing of this dissertation, is also acknowledged. While his death in itself does not change the conclusions of this dissertation, his contribution to the Coca-Cola Company's success in traveling the hero's journey has been enormous. It remains to be seen what the future brings to this great company after losing such a charismatic and heroic leader.

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