Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

The Shadows of Leadership: A Mythopoetic Perspective

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

The Shadows of Leadership: A Mythopoetic Perspective

Article excerpt


This article looks at archetypes plus light and dark shadows of leadership. First this is done in a jungian perspective, then as applied to men 's emotional healing work in the mythopoetic branch of the contemporary men's movement. Next the aspects of light and dark shadow are viewed through their relationship to OD Consultants and then the organizations for which OD Consultants work.


Carl Jung theorized that there was a collective unconscious that consisted of instinctive traits that were "hard wired" in women and men. That means that they were passed on from generation to generation by our genes. These traits are called archetypes. Peter Senge wrote about corporate archetypes in The Fifth Dimension when he discusses the impact of people's words/thoughts/deeds/actions on the organization, which are counter to instructions, written policies, mission statement, and/or goals because they are reacting/ operating from unconscious archetypal patterns. Senge also says that real learning is in the body, not passive traditional learning. With the archetypes carried in the body and real learning occurring in the body, something different is needed for transformational leadership and transformational results for individuals, families, groups, and organizations.

This article focuses on individual archetypes. There are archetypes for women, which Robert Moore has named as queen, lover, magician, and warrior. Similarly, common archetypes for men are king, lover, warrior, and magician. Family, environment, and culture shape the way we react to those archetypes/traits. These archetypes are subtle forms of energy in the body to which we respond. When one reacts, or over reacts, to a situation, the person may not even recognize that the reaction may be based of feelings of which the person is not even conscious. These feelings are deemed to be in shadow. There is light shadow and dark shadow. Light shadow will not usually cause a problem in an organization. Dark shadow usually will have a negative impact on personal relationships and therefore will impact an organization negatively.

I have a real passion around Mythopoetic men's work because of what it has done to change my life in getting in touch of a range of feelings and a method for healthy letting go held in emotions; and what I have seen it do to transform other men's lives and the relationships that they have with partners, children, and others with whom they interact. Based on my experience and my research (Barton, 2003), I believe that through use of, and participation in, mythopoetic activities, you can become better person and a more effective OD professional. With this introduction to archetypes and shadow, I will move to their application to men's mythopoetic work and then how they impact an organization development context, with suggestions as to how OD consultants might use the concepts of Jungian psychology and mythopoetic work to fashion more effective interventions for themselves and their clients.

Mythopoetic Men's Work

The sound bite for mythopoetic (MP) branch of the contemporary men's movement is that "we are the men who go out in the woods on weekends and bang on drums as part of our personal healing process," and the branch came to popular awareness in the early 1900's with the publication of Robert Bly's Iron John based on a reinterpretation/retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Iron Hans. Aspects of the Mythopoetic branch are based on Jungian psychology. Examples of other aspects of the Mythopoetic branch are men's support groups, men's initiation weekends, and father/son events. Another perspective is reinterpreting myths and poems so that they are relevant to men today and to their emotional healing today. This often includes looking at what might be in shadow, that which we hide, repress, or deny, saying they are not interested in changing, "meaning that they're too ashamed to look inside" (Jones, D. …

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