Edited by Steve Kempster, Arthur F. Turner and Gareth Edwards
Chapter 7: Using Greek mythology in leadership development: the role of archetypes for self-reflection
This chapter will discuss the usefulness of working with Greek Mythology to enhance self-reflection within a classroom based executive education setting. Seeing myth as one of the most fundamental forms of narrative knowledge, connecting past, present and future of humanity, the chapter will highlight previous contributions on the use of mythology – and particularly the role of archetypes – in leadership development. Of specific interest here is how the use of the metaphorical language of archetypes enables participants in leadership development to see the complexity and often paradoxical nature of human characteristics and behaviour, enabling a safe space for deep self-reflection. This theoretical exploration is then enriched through an example of how the characteristics of Greek Gods and Goddesses have been used in a classroom based executive education setting to encourage critical self-reflection and engender deep conversations on notions such as leadership, followership, power and gender. Lessons from the use of these archetypes will be shared and particular attention paid to the ways in which they help to highlight the dualistic nature of personal strengths and weaknesses within working relationships and to challenge the binary nature of taken-for-granted assumptions about what makes good/bad or effective/weak leadership in changing organisational contexts. The chapter concludes with reflections on the efficacy of the technique and on how to deal with the possible range of emotional reactions of participants triggered by this process of critical self-reflection.
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