Hero’s Journey

In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), Joseph Campbell outlined the basic structure of hero myths. He called this process the “hero’s journey”. The hero’s journey includes seventeen stages organized into three acts. These three acts are: Departure, Initiation, and Return. An organization that has embarked upon a path of systemic change and growth is on it’s own hero’s journey and can be thought of as progressing through these three acts.

Departure is the part of the journey where the hero is initially called from normal life to adventure. The hero is often reluctant but eventually heeds the call. An organization may experience this when offering new services or faced with a new challenge. In the Mandt System we recognize that often there is resistance to change, even if the change is for the best. Systemic change is often risky, and takes a significant amount of courage. When an organization makes a commitment to move toward more respectful and less restrictive practices there will often be growing pains as the organization transitions. Some employees may initially resist change out of fear or because growth can be uncomfortable.

Initiation, the second act, occurs when the hero faces the challenge but struggles and is often unsuccessful. The hero is pushed to the limits of his/her knowledge, capabilities, and skills. Often the hero is dealt a significant disappointment, and must look inward to grow. The hero eventually faces the internal challenges and becomes competent at the new skills that will allow for the external challenge to be overcome. In Dr. Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, and Lead (2017), she describes the second act as an often misunderstood phase of growth. It’s when the hero really has to dig deep and honestly see him/herself in all of his/her strengths and vulnerabilities. This stage of self-reflection is vital to the growth and development of any organization. It’s when the values of the organization will be put to the test. It’s how the organization owns mistakes it’s mistakes and can thus learn from them.

Return occurs when the hero returns to the original challenge with the skills necessary to triumphantly face the challenge. This is when the hero truly becomes recognized for his/her heroism. It’s when the organization is able to realize it’s vision while maintaining it’s values. It is important to note, however, that it was the grit that got the hero through the second act that brought the hero from normalcy to heroism. It’s the skills that we learn from facing our vulnerabilities that allow us to rise to greatness.

John Windsor – Mandt Faculty

Brown, B. (2017). Rising strong: how the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, and lead. New York, NY. Random House.

Campbell, J. (1949). The hero with a thousand faces. New York, NY. Pantheon Books.

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