Like Johnny Lee in that old country favorite, I’ve been lookin’ for something in all the wrong places.

Not love, though! Here I am, writing a series of blog posts on resilience—and I’ve fallen into a kind of non-resilient trap. I’ve been looking for resilience in the wrong story type (emphasis on wrong for me; not for everyone).

There are no bad story types in the 12-archetype system I work with and write about—only poor ways of experiencing or expressing them.  There are lots of bad story type fits, though, when we unconsciously take on a story type that we haven’t developed in ourselves and doesn’t resonate in some essential way inside us. We’re most likely to do this when that story type represents a societal norm or collective tendency, which can make it seem like that’s just the way to be in a given situation.

So my response to this now six-month long pandemic has been to try acting  a lot like a Hero. That’s a highly admired, highly rewarded story type in most Western cultures—one that offers many gifts and contributions. I walked right into it, deciding it was time to get stuff done, do it now and not let things get in the way.  I didn’t really think much about it consciously.  I just. . . did it (like Nike says I should!).

So since March, I’ve converted all my existing trainings to online only; developed and marketed two new programs; written more chapters in my book; ramped up a coaching collective; completed two branding projects; remodeled multiple rooms in my house; re-organized pretty much everything I own and packed up a lot of it; volunteered for a voter education initiative—and committed to writing a blog post on resilience for 12 consecutive weeks.

But let’s face it.  That’ a lot of activity, and none of it is particularly heroic.  The real Heroes right now are essential workers, parents home-schooling their kids, ordinary folks turned social activists, people moving forward past lost jobs or businesses.  I’m privileged in a way many others aren’t to choose the things I’ve done this year.

I could have brought a different energy to them, though, especially since I’m a Creator by nature, not a Hero.  The “get more done, faster” approach isn’t a very high-level, fulfilling version of that story.  And, it left me teetering pretty close to the most typical non-resilient state for a Hero type—exhaustion—without having the energy-shifting gifts of mastery, achievement and feeling like I was really making a difference to shore me up for a rebound.  I didn’t necessarily need to do fewer things.  I needed to focus on how the doing of them inspired me and how my imagination could help me re-invent my contribution in the world.  That’s what resilience looks like for me.

Understanding the Creator’s Gift

I’m a Creator type (energized by inventiveness, imaginativeness and ideas) who unconsciously took on the determination, drive and action orientation of a Hero. Are those Hero qualities great things to have and worth awakening if you don’t? Definitely, and I have a variety of approaches to doing that. Should they be playing lead guitar in your existential band if you’re a Creator? Not if you want to feel as energized and inspired as you need to be.

This is the fifth post in my weekly series, and I’m shifting my approach to writing it.  I’m not driving to post it by Wednesday morning.  I’m not going to worry about making it 1,200 words long.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time researching great well-known examples of Creator types and how they demonstrated resilience.

Instead, I’m just going to share my personal experience of being a Creator when I’m most on fire and most resilient.  That happens when I’m leading with who I am—one of the three worklife “bliss” principles I’m integrating into a book, new training series and almost everything else I’m doing and being right now.  I guess we really do need to teach what we most need to learn!

The bliss principles I’ve been developing, along with colleague Dana Theus, are inspired by Joseph Campbell’s invitation to “follow your bliss.” Campbell never meant you should be pursuing your pleasure (a common misinterpretation).  His version of bliss was about being the person you were uniquely meant to be on a path that was purpose-built for you to follow.

When I imagine how the world would be if everyone did that—and the way people would re-invent themselves to make an essential contribution—I’m in Creator bliss.  When I imagine how my work helps other people do and be that, I’m feeling charged up and alive.  And that means I’ve insulated myself from the non-resilient state of lifelessness that’s most common for Creators.

So here’s the other great thing about developing worklife bliss and leading with who you are. Resilience builds in virtual lock-step with bliss. That works in reverse as well, though. The more you lead with something you’re not, the more likely you are to experience a double whammy of non-resilience (the one associated with the type you’re not and the one most common to your authentic self).  This is not a two-for-one deal you want to buy!

What you want is to build resilience by tapping directly into the energy and authenticity that finding the real and most animated “you” produces.  Then you need to activate it in ways that unleash the pure, unmitigated joy of knowing and being who you are; expressing it with boundless enthusiasm; and saying to the world “come and get it.” That’s how you become more resilient and more like your best, most resilient self (whether that’s a Creator a Hero or one of the 10 other story types that can shape your bliss).  Speaking of those types, here’s where we on building out the resilience-by-type chart:

 

Type Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus Related values
Ruler Insecurity Confidence Progress Responsibility, Role Modeling, Influence
Everyperson Voicelessness

 

Empathy Solidarity Community, Justice, Fairness
Caregiver Overwhelm Compassion Human potential Service, Kindness, Development
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action
Hero Exhaustion Mastery Achievement Action, Drive, Making a Difference
Creator Lifelessness Imagination Re-invention Invention, Ideation, Expression

 Activating the Creator resilience quotient

Becoming a more resilient Creator involves an energetic shift from feelings of lifelessness and depletion into a different space filled with ideas, inventions and expressive approaches.  Consider these questions as prompts for your next steps:

  • What are you doing right now that doesn’t have much life for you—and how can you re-imagine it in a more meaningful way?
  • What needs to be re-invented or re-designed that would make a difference for you?
  • What do you most need to express in the world right now—and how can you do that?
  • Who or what inspires you most—and what message is waiting for you in that inspiration?
  • Who are you as a Creator? COMPLETE THIS STATEMENT:  I am a (insert multiple descriptive adjectives) Creator who (insert an intention, an idea, a purpose or a promise you want to make).

By the way, I wrote 1,202 words in this post—not 1,200.  Does that make me an over-achiever?

 

“Wakanda Forever!”

That iconic line from the equally iconic Black Panther corner of the Marvel superhero universe took on a truly poignant new heft last week. It’s meant to powerfully conjure a love of kingdom; a deep pride in identity and heritage; an honoring of origins and a vision of future impact. Now it also brings to mind (and heart) the man who played Wakanda’s king—who seems to have himself embodied the best of what the Ruler story type stands for in the world.

Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer last week, at the age of 43, after a four-year battle with colon cancer. His actions during that time were almost astonishingly resilient. For four years, he made movies between surgeries and chemotherapy rounds. He crafted a body of work that he knew would matter even if he was gone. He shaped and shared an influential voice. He took serious responsibility for modeling the right things for his young fans. He portrayed real-life legends (Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, James Brown) in ways that extended their already considerable impact.

And he played the king in one of the most important and groundbreaking films of our time.

Does an actor have to be like the characters he plays to do them justice? Not necessarily. But Chadwick Boseman showed up with intensely king-like energy as he brought so many legends to life—and the ways he demonstrated resilience in his own battle were the ways of a high-level Ruler story type.

This is the fourth of 12 weekly posts I’m writing about resilience. I’m sharing thoughts and feelings about what each story type looks like in a non-resilient state, and how people who are like that type can use their unique gifts, perspective and values to shift back into a more resilient place. This week’s post is about the Ruler story type.

In a non-resilient state, Rulers have a tough time weathering the chaos that can emerge around them when things aren’t going well. Non-resilient Rulers can be overcome by insecurity as a result, forgetting what’s best for others and holding tighter to the reins of control.  The shift back to resilience involves feeling back into their personal confidence and focusing where progress can best be made instead of railing at things they can’t control (or shouldn’t).

Understanding the Ruler’s gift

Here’s where we are on the resilience chart at four weeks into the series.  Take a look at how the Ruler story type shows up in a non-resilient state, and what gift, focus and values can create a resilience boost:

Type Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus Related values
Ruler Insecurity Confidence Progress Responsibility, Role Modeling, Influence
Everyperson Voicelessness

 

Empathy Solidarity Community, Justice, Fairness
Caregiver Overwhelm Compassion Human potential Service, Kindness, Development
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action

 

The very best Rulers are those who take social responsibility for the good of a whole (a kingdom, an organization, an affinity group, an initiative). They usually have a kind of personal power or presence that generates influence and builds followership. They see themselves as role models.  Whether they’re running an enterprise or managing a project, they know how to make things move forward more smoothly.

Doing this requires a great deal of personal investment and energy. When chaos and disorder rock the boat, it’s no surprise that responsibility can start morphing into insecurity, or that way showing can start to look like micro-managing. If you’re a Ruler, the way back is remembering what makes you confident in yourself and applying it where progress is either most possible or most sorely needed. It’s very much about discerning what’s right and doing it.

The journey of T’Challah in Black Panther is one of committing to do the right thing. His is not the generic Hero story; not ever really about saving the day by defeating a foe.  He becomes the man his kingdom—and the world—needs.

The journey of Chadwick Boseman is similar. He didn’t vanquish cancer.  Instead, he shaped a legacy.  He left powerful portraits of people who made enduring marks in their fields, who stood for something larger than themselves—in ways and in times that were never easy for those who looked like him.

He paid attention to whether things were being done the right way. He took on the mantle of role model.  He said things that needed to be said, and used his personal presence to be heard.

Chadwick Boseman was a leader.  His Black Panther co-star Danai Gurira said “he was perfectly equipped to take on the responsibility of leading the franchise that changed everything for Black Representation.”

Chadwick Boseman asked others to take responsibility themselves, too. In the final tweet posted before his death, he congratulated Kamala Harris—and reminded everyone to do their civic duty and vote. Securing that right for so many people took tremendous resilience on the part of those who led the fights. Chadwick Boseman knew that.  Let’s remember that ourselves as we remember him.

Activating the Ruler resilience quotient

Consider the following questions if you want to fuel up your Ruler resilience quotient:

  • What are you micro-managing or holding too tightly right now—and where can you shift your attention?
  • What qualities do you have that contribute to your self confidence—and how can you rely on those more now?
  • Where can you make important progress at work, in your community or in the world?
  • What will you choose to be responsible for right now, and what will that look like?
  • What’s your right thing to do, right now?

In Black Panther, Nakia tells T’Challah that “you get to decide what kind of king you are going to be.” We all do, wherever and however our sphere of influence is felt. Let’s make it matter, like Chadwick did.  

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the principal of The Storybranding Group and Founder of the Narrative Intelligence Collective.  She’s also co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here)

Chadwick Boseman photo by Gage Skidmore.

How resilient would you feel right now if you had 107 kids?  (Yes, parents, think about managing a virtual learning experience like that!).

It seems that Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, grew up with that many siblings.  I’m not sure how that worked—there were certainly a lot of adoptions and fostering relationships along the way.  What’s very clear is that Claire grew up witnessing the effects of poverty and hunger on those young lives. And she formed a lasting sense of solidarity with people experiencing the deeply damaging impact of food insecurity.  That affinity shapes her very resilient response to what’s going on in the world around her right now.

This is the third of 12 weekly posts I’m presenting on resilience.  Each one will look at a different story type and the unique way resilience can be tapped and leveraged for people who relate to that character.  I’ll also be writing about the non-resilient state most common to that story type—and how to shift it energetically and motivationally using a related resilience gift and focus.

You’re probably an Everyperson if you care deeply about the groups that you’re part of and relate strongly to the plight of those around you. You may be skilled at community building and helping others feel like they belong, too.  You likely believe in justice, fairness and equality.  When those values are repeatedly challenged and you don’t feel empowered to respond, your non-resilient state can feel a lot like voicelessness. The shift back to resilience involves feeling directly into the empathy you have for others and using that sense of solidarity to shape how you either hear them and/or want to speak up.

Fortunately, you’ll find yourself in very good company these days if you’re able to do that.  There’s a lot of Everyperson energy in the world right now—and it’s being felt almost everywhere you look.  Even if Everyperson isn’t one of your strongest story types, the failure to develop it may well come at your peril (especially if you want to succeed in a leadership role or move forward professionally). 

Understanding the Everyperson’s gift

Every story type has a non-resilient state that gets activated under stress, and both a gift and focus point that can help create a shift back towards greater resilience.  Here’s what that looks for an Everyperson (and the other two types we’ve already covered):

Type Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus Related values
Everyperson Voicelessness Empathy Solidarity Community, justice, fairness
Caregiver Overwhelm Compassion Human potential Service, Kindness, Development
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action

Something has blown the lid of voicelessness in the United States and much of the world in recent years and months.  We have the Black Lives Matter movement, the Me Too movement and multiple others designed to shine a light on individuals and groups harmed by injustice.  We have people speaking up in ways they haven’t done before, such as athletes publicly calling out coaches and school administrators.  We also have people sharing their voices, often loudly, about the impact of toxic organizational cultures.

Organizational leaders need to pay attention to every one of these Everyperson-motivated movements and work very hard to both understand and respond to them if they want to build cultures where people are engaged and committed.  Command-and-control styles of leadership are making a hasty retreat in most places. Resilience now mandates an adaptive and human-focused response.  That means really taking in what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes; honestly examining your own biases; and learning how to really listen (and not just react to what you’re hearing).

Certainly, all of those things come more easily to people who are natural born Everyperson types. They’re usually perceived as empathetic and fair to begin with.  Sometimes, though, a catalytic event activates an even deeper level of solidarity for them. After a bout with cancer, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot left an executive leadership position at Walmart to join Feeding of America (the nation’s second largest charity).  She made that move when she needed resilience most—and she did it by acting on her solidarity with people whose need she understood and felt at the deepest of levels.

She’ll certainly need that resilience as Feeding of America responds to a dire situation. The organization has seen at least a 60 percent increase in the number of people needing their help—and a daunting gap between need and available supply. That scenario could leave anyone feeling crushed by the weight.  Claire relies on her solidarity with the people she serves to keep her energized and committed.

“Most of my siblings who joined my family throughout the course of my childhood came into our family having been malnourished,” she recently told the New York Times.  “I witnessed firsthand the devastating implication of a lack of access to a nutritious mix of food on a child.  I also witnessed the restorative powers of food on their bodies and their spirits as well.  So I bring all of that into the moment that I’m in right now.”

Solidarity is one of the most powerful forces in the world.  So is empathy. If you’re an Everyperson, remind yourself about where your deepest affinity lies and consider what might need to be said or done to support that group. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to speak out yourself.  Listening to the stories of others is a powerful form of empathy itself, allowing them to find their own voices. It provides the gift of affinity and community back to you in return.

Getting involved in a social justice movement is richly rewarding for many, and far from the only thing you can do. Your affinity group could be lonely senior citizens, a spiritual community, your co-workers, hobbyists who share a passion.  You’ll feel more resilient and figuratively if not literally “voiced” when you build and support those ties.

Activating the Everyperson resilience quotient

Here are some reflection questions to consider if you want to build your Everyperson resilience quotient:

  • Where can you join up or join forces with others?
  • Who needs a more empathetic ear—and how can you really listen to what others are saying to you from a curious, interested place?
  • How do your own biases (and privilege) get in the way of empathy and fairness—and what do you need to do about that?
  • Who are you willing to stand up for, and what would that look like?

And here’s a really big inquiry for you: Are you in the right place to find your voice? After her bout with cancer, she told the New York Times that she asked herself if she really wanted her last professional act to be something she did at Walmart.  She decided it wasn’t.  Nothing against Walmart, but it’s a question we might all want to be asking ourselves right now.

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the principal of The Storybranding Group and Founder of the Narrative Intelligence Collective.  She’s also co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here). 

 

“Resilience is born by grounding yourself in your own loveliness, hitting notes you thought were way out of your range.”

Gregory Boyle (Tattoos on the Heart)

That’s a poetic way to define resilience, isn’t it, arising at a beautiful crossroads where love and human potential seem to meet. We don’t hear resilience talked about this way very often—and it’s certainly not how most CEOs would describe it.

Gregory Boyle is definitely a CEO, though. He’s spent the last 30 years leading a multi-faceted organization with as many as nine different retail operations running at any one time and a $20 million+ budget.  He’s the founder of Homeboy Industries, which turns out to the be the world’s largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program. He’s also a Jesuit priest.  And he’s definitely a Caregiver who has an especially resilient mindset around his work. Gregory Boyle focuses on the potential he sees in people who need his help much more than on the pain they’re experiencing.

This is my second of 12 weekly posts on resilience. Over the years, I’ve found that building a more resilient mindset isn’t really a one-size-fits-all proposition.  Doing it effectively means understanding what a non-resilient state looks like based on your story type, and then applying the specific gift and attitudinal focus that works best for that type to shift it. This week’s post is about the Caregiver story type; you can read the first series blog focused on the Innocent type here

In a non-resilient state, Caregivers are more likely than any other story type to feel deeply overwhelmed by what’s going on, what’s being asked of them and what they must do to deliver.  When it comes to restoring resilience, they’re often told to focus on self care. That’s never a bad idea, but here’s a surprising fact: research shows that self care may not help very much unless it’s accompanied by a specific kind of attitudinal shift.  Caregivers are most likely to become more resilient when they redefine their relationship with their core gift of compassion.

Understanding the Caregiver’s gift

Every story type has a common non-resilient state where stress can take them, along with a gift that can help them shift to a more empowering mindset for bouncing back.  Here’s what that looks like for a Caregiver:

Type Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus Related values
Caregiver Overwhelm Compassion Human potential Service, Kindness, Development
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action

 

It’s probably no surprise that Caregiver types can find themselves feeling very overwhelmed by circumstances.  Situationally, Caregivers often have jobs that involve direct service to people in a lot of need.  They may be first responders, rescue workers, medical professionals or in other roles that can involve chaos and pain. They can be customer service reps or help desk workers dealing with people who are frustrated and impatient for help.

Caregiver types may not be in those kinds of roles at all, though. A job doesn’t make you a Caregiver story type at your core. Your attitude, your motivation, your strengths and your values do. Whether you’re an accountant, a landscaper a project manager or a waiter, anyone can be hard-wired to see a need for help–and an impulse to respond.

All Caregivers can share the common traits that lead to a non-resilient state, though–things like taking on too much responsibility for others, enabling dependency and internalizing the trouble and pain around them. Here’s where compassion comes back into the picture, and the lessons of Gregory Boyle.

Compassion is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with someone else’s suffering and feel motivated to help alleviate it.  Taking compassionate action (like kindness, generosity or advocacy) actually activates pleasure circuits in the brain and increases the giver’s sense of well being.

Here’s the cautionary note, though: truly resilient Caregivers can recognize and respond to the suffering they see without taking it on and making it a part of them.  They can shift their focus from the pain to the potential and capacity for wholeness that all humans possess.

That’s what Gregory Boyle has done in his work with thousands of former gang members from the roughest streets in America.  Where others see criminals, Father Greg sees people who are yes, in need of help—but more importantly who are full of life-giving and life-supporting potential. He takes that idea a step further, too. He believes that his work is less about helping and more about finding actual kinship with them.  With that level of regard, he doesn’t disempower them with pity or by continuously doing what they can learn to do for themselves.

This is an essential lesson for all Caregiver types. When you focus on the problem more than the potential, your impulse to help can become impulsive.  This is especially true during times like we’re in right now.  Stress and uncertainty creates fear and can trigger Caregivers to take on even more. You may begin to reinforce your own sense of self in an unhealthy way by “helping” in almost every situation you encounter (even the mundane ones, which can lead to a surprising level of overwhelm and anxiety).  Your co-worker isn’t finishing her work so you take on some of her assignments. Your child isn’t doing his chores so you let him off the hook. Your direct report can’t seem to finish an article so you rewrite it yourself.

When you shift your focus to the potential, you move to a higher, more resilient level of the Caregiver: you develop others and foster their growth instead of enabling them. You can see people as whole instead of broken. You can build your resilience by developing a mutuality of regard and responsibility for what needs to be done at work or at home instead of taking the burden on yourself.  You can shift from shaping dependency to advocating for potential.

Activating the Caregiver resilience quotient

Becoming a more resilient Caregiver involves an energetic shift.  Start by checking in with your sense of being overwhelmed, and then consider what could be on the other side of it. Use some of these questions to prompt ideas and actions:

  • What are you taking on for others that they could learn to do for themselves?
  • What are you taking on that has little meaning for you (and how can you give it back to its rightful owner)?
  • How can you enable more growth and development in the people around you (and avoid co-opting their potential with too much help?)
  • What loveliness do you see in yourself that deserves to be nurtured?

Remember that as a Caregiver, you have the capacity to help others unearth their own loveliness—and find some of your own.  As Father Boyle says: “Through your kindness and tenderness and focused attention of love, (you) return people to themselves. And in the process, you’re returned to yourself.” There’s so much potential there!

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the principal of The Storybranding Group and Founder of the Narrative Intelligence Collective.  She’s also co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here). 

 

Everything has changed since March 16, 2020, hasn’t it?  That was the day public school systems started shutting down around the country; the day when the size of public gatherings was significantly restricted in many U.S. states; the day when restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms began to be shuttered in others. For a lot of us, it was the day the coronavirus got real.

It also would have been my Dad’s 92nd birthday.  I wrote a blog post that day about him and how much he exemplified everything that was best and most enduring about the Innocent story type.  Ironically, I posted it on the very day that our collective innocence about the pandemic began its earnest and devastating real-time fade.

When any of us takes that hard a knock (much less when entire societies do), there’s nothing we need more than resilience to help us recover and eventually bounce back. But how do we find resilience for ourselves, and leverage it once we do?  Well, as with most things, I recommend you start with considering how story type affects and bolsters resilience. It turns out there are 12 evidence-based personal attributes or capacities that are strongly correlated with resilience, one for every story type.

So, I’m going to write 12 weekly posts (one for each story type) that focus on how to build your resilience quotient. I’m starting with the Innocent type because Dad would have loved that—and because he deeply admired John Lewis, the person I’m going to profile this week as another great example of it. It’s also a good type to start with because the Innocent’s gift of optimism correlates with resilience more strongly than any other single personality trait.

Understanding resilience gifts

Don’t worry if you’re not much of an Innocent, though! Every type (including Innocent) has a non-resilient state (the place where people like that are most likely to go under stress), along with a personality “gift” and focal point they can use to build a much greater resilience quotient.

Here’s what that looks like for an Innocent (note that I’ll build the chart out every week in this series with an additional type):

Type Non-resilient state Resilience gift Resilience focus Related values
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action

If you’re an Innocent type, disillusionment can take a stealthy and pervasive psychic position in your life—sapping your optimistic spirit and hopeful nature as it goes.  What’s the way out?  It’s addressing your disillusionment, and re-orienting yourself in what you’re still hopeful about, where the silver linings are and how you can put your own values into action.

Looking to role models also really helps, and in the midst of a deeply polarized and frightening time we have been blessed to see a light shone on the life of an American who exemplifies the Innocent type as well as anyone ever could.  Yes, I’m talking about John Lewis.

Most of us know the basic outline of Rep. Lewis’ life:  Raised a sharecropper’s son in rural Alabama.  Freedom rider at age 21, March on Washington speaker at 23.  Lifetime civil rights advocate who was beaten, belittled and threatened on many occasions.  Enduring public servant who served 17 terms in Congress and never stopped living up to his own ideals.

If you look up the word indomitable in the dictionary, you ought to find a picture of John Lewis right there.  Despite the violence and contempt he so often experienced, John met it with a core value he never abandoned: love.  Here are his own words on the topic:

  • “When we went on the freedom ride, it was love in action. The march from Selma to Montgomery was love in action. We do it not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s love in action.”
  • “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. . . but whatever you do, whatever your response is, (it) is with love, kindness, and that sense of faith.”

John Lewis remained resilient throughout his lifetime because he overcame the trap of disillusionment, and embodied the most empowering aspects of the Innocent story type.  His commitment was so embedded in his being that it helped him take a long and self-sustaining view of his life’s work.  It also shaped an authentic leadership style during his long Congressional tenure.  One of the more moving tributes at his funeral was from a staff member who described how his presence and his actions towards people who worked for him always reflected his optimism and love.

Whether you agree with John Lewis’ political positions or not, everyone can learn a lesson from how he lived.  In an increasingly polarized world, where most of us decamp to the corner that represents what we’re against—John Lewis spent a lifetime showing the world what he was for. He was for love in action and exemplified a lifetime of values supported by deeds. That’s probably why he was so beloved, and why his passing was treated so much like the death of a presidential figure.

 Activating the Innocent resilience quotient

We can’t all be iconic public figures in our lived resilience, but we can become better and more adaptable versions of ourselves who contribute to the world in significant ways. The first step is to be conscious of what our non-resilient state actually looks like and feels like—and then shift our focus and our energy toward the gifts of an empowering story type.

To do that with the Innocent type, check in with your own disillusionment and then reflect on what can be found on the other side.  Consider these questions:

  • What are you hopeful about?
  • What silver linings have emerged in recent months?
  • What are you for in the world right now—and how can you stand up for it?
  • What essential personal value can shape your sense of being and your acts of doing right now?

The night John Lewis lay in state here in D.C., a double rainbow appeared above the Capitol Building—arcing as if to end right where he was. It was a powerful symbol of his belief system.  And, it instantly reminded me of Dad and our annual tradition of watching the Wizard of Oz together and listening to Judy Garland sing “Over the Rainbow.”

Somehow, I think he and John Lewis have already had a chat and agreed that absolutely, it “would all work out in due season” as Dad always said.

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s Principal of The Storybranding Group and Founder of the Narrative Intelligence Collective, and co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here).

“It will all work out in due season.” 

 I can hear my father saying it now, full of calm and grace, the message he stuck to no matter what was going on.  Dad would be 92 years old today, and his signature statement matters more than it ever has.  He must have talked about that “due season” a thousand times as I was growing up, always with equal measures of belief and equanimity, usually when the rest or us were stressing out, spiraling up or losing our cool over disasters imagined or real.

This one is very real—and Dad meant something you might not expect. He wasn’t promising that things would go exactly as we wanted them to, or that there wouldn’t be trouble along the way, or that everything would be normal again before we knew it.  For him, the trajectory of life just continued to unfold, carrying us toward the “due season” where things would simply be as they would be. He accepted that there would be good times and bad times, and he was willing to move with the inevitable cycles of life in positive and perseverant ways.  He was the highest-level embodiment of the Innocent story type who has ever graced my life.

My Dad came by his outlook honestly. Raised in India by missionary parents, his long view of life was shaped by very different experiences than his U.S.-raised contemporaries. While they lived through the Great Depression, he played soccer with Indian children on fields where human skulls lay scattered—sometimes serving as the balls. He witnessed famine, leprosy and endemic social injustice. As a teenager, he was thrown from a train wreck that killed everyone else in the car where he had been standing.

Despite it all, Dad returned to the U.S. with the attitude of an Eastern philosopher and an indomitable, values-driven spirit. He described India and his experiences there in wondrous ways. His tales of encounters with water buffalo and elephants and even tigers were awe-inspiring (to him and to us). And it was clear he had learned the most about life from the un-schooled Hindu caretakers of his earliest years—not the more traditionally educated academics who taught at the British-run boarding schools he attended as a boy.

Throughout his life, Dad adapted to what was going on around him with an unwavering attitude of optimism, acceptance and hope. He would have done the same when facing our current and collective global crisis. I know he would have counseled me to have faith in others; to notice what’s right, good and possible; and to take what values-inspired action I could to support my beliefs.  Right now, all professionals and leaders need to think about how we can use the power of our best and most motivated selves to adapt.

Getting Conscious About Your Adaptive Tendencies

 This is my fourth of a four-post blog series on the ways our core story types can empower or disempower us.  I’ve written a separate post on each of the organizing quadrants in Dr. Carol S. Pearson’s 12-archetype motivation model (which groups the 12 story-based types into quadrants that represent the most important tasks we must accomplish in professional settings, and the underlying human needs that fuel them).  This post is about the adapting quadrant—the work we must do when something in our environment calls on us to learn, grow and respond.  If ever there was a time for that, it’s now.

The three story types most associated with this quadrant (Innocent, Explorer and Sage) all do this in specific, distinctive and potentially beneficial ways.  When faced with a need to adapt, Innocents check in first with their belief systems and shape a values-based response.  Explorers wonder what they can find out that brings new guidance or approaches to bear.  Sages apply their critical thinking skills to assess what they know or apply what they can figure out.

All of these approaches and mindsets are valuable and good—as long as they’re expressed from an empowering level of the story type.  That’s most likely to happen as our focus widens outside of ourselves to take in the affinity groups and communities we relate to AND an expanded sense of connection with all other human beings. And that’s what the world sorely needs right now.

What the world could use a lot less of now is the disempowering versions of these story types.  Those can emerge in ways that harm us, the people we care about, and ultimately the entire world. Take a look at the chart below for what the empowering and disempowering levels of each story type look like:

 

ADAPTING/GROWING

EMPOWERING LEVELS Innocent Explorer Sage
Level 3:  We (expanded other; enterprise, humanity, global community) Idealist  

Trailblazer

 

Mastermind
Level 2:  Us (immediate other/affinity group; family, team/department, local  community)

 

Believer Navigator Expert
Level 1: Me (self, personality/persona, ego)

 

Optimist Seeker Thinker
DISEMPOWERING LEVELS Innocent Explorer Sage
 

Level 1: Me (self, personality/persona, ego)

 

Pollyanna Wanderer Overthinker
Level 2:  Us (immediate other/affinity group; family, team/department, local  community)

 

 

Denier

 

Lone Wolf Dogmatic
Level 3:  We (expanded other; enterprise, humanity, global community)

 

Absolutist Deserter Deceiver

Getting back to your empowering ground

Let’s take a look at what the empowering and disempowering versions of these stories actually look like:

  • An empowered Innocent can help us keep hope alive and unite around the common ground beliefs that all of us cherish. A disempowered Innocent can naively deny what’s actually going on or disavow any other belief or perspective.
  • An empowered Explorer can guide us through the messy terrain of alternative options, and land on unique and exciting solutions. A disempowered Explorer might resent restrictions on their individual freedoms and ignore what’s best for the collective good.
  • An empowered Sage can help explain what’s really going on and answer essential questions that lead to wiser decisions for moving forward. A disempowered Sage can get too attached to their own conclusions, and defend them to the point of deception.

To get back on empowering ground, as yourself some of these questions (or find a coach to help you or your team work through it; there are many virtual options for doing that right now):

  • Innocent story types: What’s going right, and how can we build on that?  What are we refusing to believe or accept that we need to reconsider?
  • Explorer story types: What alternatives are available to us right now that we could try? Are we ignoring what’s good for others in our response?
  • Sage story types: What do we know for sure about what’s going on, and what do we need to find out? Where are we drinking our own Kool-aid or defending our point of view too strongly?

It will all work in out, in due season.  Thank you, Dad—and wherever you are, please send some hope our way.

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help clients understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the principal of The Storybranding Group and co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (SVSS).  Cindy also trains coaches and consultants to work with the story typing framework; find out about her next training (virtual option available from April 15-17 here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/story-type-narrative-intelligence-training-april-2020-tickets-90946707049.

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT:  I’m about to reveal that the Harry Potter books and movies probably really tricked you—even if you never read or saw them.  (Also, I’ll be giving away the ending to the entire series at the end of paragraph four!). 

Everyone knows that Harry Potter was a magician, right?  He had a wand, after all, and learned how to use all kinds of spells, and could summon fantastic creatures to help him, and demonstrated the magical powers he had time and time again.  He transformed the world he lived in through enchantment and sorcery and conjuring, didn’t he?

Well, yes.  But Harry Potter wasn’t a magician at his core.  To truly be something, you have to be motivated by the role, by the quest and by the outcome of its inevitable story arc.  Magicians want to enable transformative change or heal others or see a big vision realized.

Harry Potter didn’t particularly want those things.  What he wanted was a family, a community, a place where he belonged and others did, too. He was exceptionally skilled at bringing people together in tough times and overcoming oppressive forces. He empathized with the people around him and desperately wanted things to work out for them, too.  The last three words of the Harry Potter book series summed up exactly what Harry longed for and ultimately enabled through courage and magic that was motivated by his Everyperson self:  All was well.

Leaders, coaches, consultants and professionals who want to make a real difference need to understand the critical difference between what someone can do and what actually motivates them to participate in a meaningful way.  Harry had magical powers, but they weren’t at the heart of his best self.  They were tools he used to be who he really was.  If he’d been in a career development program, the best path for him would have been moving towards the most empowering levels of the Everyperson story (and to become aware of the disempowering side of that very same storyline, where he’d be most likely to falter).

Getting conscious about your impact on others

This is my third blog post on the empowering and disempowering faces of the most universally recognized story types in contemporary culture.  I’ve been writing a separate post on each of the organizing quadrants included in Dr. Carol S. Pearson’s archetype system (which groups the 12 story-based types into quadrants that represent the most important tasks we have to accomplish in our professional settings).

We’ve reached a tricky spot in the series, because we’re moving out of the well-worn organizational terrain of making things work and producing results (the first two quadrants) into the definitively more fragile human ground of relating to others and developing a sense of belonging.  I’ve seen this quadrant get very short shrift in a lot of organizational settings, and its importance likely gets under-estimated a good bit in American culture as a whole.  After all, we tend to prize rugged individualism and often de-value anything that looks too much like dependence.

So, here’s the thing:  organizational leaders ignore the relating quadrant at their peril.  It may not shape American culture as much as the other quadrants–but it’s the most foundational of all human needs and has a huge impact on organizational culture.  Relating is where commitment is most frequently born (and needs to be cultivated).  It’s such a strong motivator for many people that it actually enables their capacity to produce results (think Harry Potter here, big time).  And people who are operating at a disempowering level of a story in the relating quadrant can wreak absolute havoc in their interactions with others.  So let’s take a look at what can happen at the empowering and disempowering levels of relating-oriented story types.

Lovers can make the most enthusiastic and passionate commitments, build the strongest connections across people and groups, and help everyone see what’s truly special about them. They can also play favorites, use their charm to wheedle favors and actively exclude people who aren’t part of their cliques.

Jesters can lighten up situations with their wit, help other people hear otherwise uncomfortable truths and model ways to reduce stress and increase presence.  They can also goof off, use their wits to manipulate and actually trick or con others to get their own way.

Everypersons like Harry Potter can form deep and abiding loyalty to others, shape and build strong groups or communities, and ultimately stand very tall for human rights.  They can also fall into complaining and blaming imagined “oppressors” and see the world in bleak enough terms that everything starts looking like a catastrophe.  Harry Potter did that every now and then.

 Getting back to your empowering ground

 So the first step in claiming the most empowering ground in the relating quadrant (or to help someone else do that) is acknowledging the power and value of its story types.  If this is where your core motivation lies, understand and own it. Consider the following questions:

  • What important professional contributions do I make because I’m like the relating-oriented type that resonates most for me?
  • What kind of environment do I need to flourish, and how can I help shape that for myself?
  • What kind of situations trigger me and set off a disempowering downturn?
  • How can I shift my energy back into a more empowering place when that happens?
  • Who have I been under-estimating because they’re very much like one of these types, and what should I do differently about that?

And remember to use your magic wand in service of something that really matters to you.

I’ve seen a lot of super hero movies this year.  Okay, I’ve seen three—but that’s probably two more than the previous 10 years combined!  If the box office results are any indication for these types of movies, I’m not alone.  I’ve joined in on a collective societal hunger to see victory play out and helped pave a golden path for producers who help us tap into it. 

We don’t just go to super-hero movies—another trend is the success of all kinds of competitive TV shows where participants get eliminated until somebody “wins.”  I pretty much just binge-watched a glass blowing competition (okay, it was really cool to see glass blowers on TV, but there had to be a winner!). 

There’s no question that triumph is exhilarating—by action or by association.  Why else was I all puffed up the day after my alma mater, Old Dominion University, won what some pundits have called the biggest underdog upset in sporting history?  ODU didn’t even have a football program when I went there, and I’ve never attended a game!  That feeling of victory was viral just because I had an affinity for the group itself.  But there are definitely some up sides and some down sides to this results-oriented kind of energy. 

Hero isn’t just dominating the entertainment world.  It’s shaping many of the positive and negative trends in our working lives.  Businesses are under constant pressure to produce short-term financial results.  Productivity and performance are the bell weather measurement standards for employee value.  Non-profits can’t get grants without evidence-based results of how you’ve achieved victory.  Let’s not even get started on politics—the polarization in today’s political climate and the horse-race mentality of media coverage is all about the Hero storyline. 

Here’s where it gets interesting and a little disturbing.  Hero is such an intoxicating storyline in American culture that there’s a whole sub-genre of movies, books and TV shows devoted to the anti-hero—the character who operates almost entirely on the disempowering side of the storyline and actually gets revered for it.  There doesn’t even have to be a redemptive arc for the protagonists in these stories (think Breaking Bad). 

So what does it mean for our workplaces if we’re so consciously and subconsciously tied to a sense of identity around results—or a need to create one if we want to look successful–that actual harm can begin to look okay (the ends truly justifying the means)?   

Getting conscious about your relationship with results

This is my second blog post in a four-part series on the empowering and disempowering faces of the most universal story types.  I’m writing a post on each of the organizing quadrants included in Dr. Carol S. Pearson’s archetype system (each of which represents one of the four most important tasks of professional life and the underlying human needs that drive them). 

This post is about the results quadrant, with its laser-like focus on human mastery and self esteem—and it’s the most potent quadrant in American culture right now.  Results rule the day in this country’s politics, business and social justice movements. We want things to happen, and we mostly want them now.  All three of the story types in this quadrant feature characters who are highly motivated to get results (although in different ways).  Heroes want to win; Revolutionaries want to change the game; Magicians want to realize big visions.  Each of those characters has juice in the world, but none of them is as ubiquitous today as the Hero. 

What does this have to do with the empowering and disempowering faces of the Hero story type?  Hero has both, just like all the other story types.  On the empowering side of the storyline, a Hero shows up prepared to compete valiantly, defend what matters most to those they hold dear, and ultimately triumph for a cause that’s bigger than themselves or the interests of their own circle.  On the disempowering side, a drive to achieve can descend into burnout, bullying others into acquiescence and seizing the spoils for themselves.    

We can also glorify the other two types in the results quadrant when we can find ourselves glorifying thieving outlaws (Revolutionary) and rooting for bad sorcerers (Magician).  This rarely happens on the disempowering side of archetypes in any of the other quadrants, which is a cautionary tale all by itself.  Take a look at the chart to see the trajectories of empowerment and disempowerment associated with each of these types:

All of this means we have to be especially vigilant and conscious of who we are when we take on the strengths and values of these characters.  Professionally, this doesn’t usually play out with the kind of drama we see in the movies.  There aren’t many car chases but there’s a real human toll. 

An unconsciously relentless drive for results can create driven workplace environments with high levels of burnout and disengagement, and/or toxically assertive cultures where employees have to be either winners or losers.  Just search for Amazon or Uber workplace culture to see exactly what this looks like.  And be well aware that you could be shaping your own mini-versions of these cultures in your very own team or group. 

Getting back to your empowering ground

What to do?  Well, this is one of the areas where I think coaching can be the most powerful.  If you’re a leader, you have to manage your own relationship with results and what that means for you and the people around you.  Consider getting a coach to work you through the kind of inquiry below, or answer the questions for yourself:

  • Does my quest for results sometimes land me in disempowering terrain?  NOTE:  Be brutally honest
  • Are the results I’m driving attached to anything meaningful besides financial gain or a self esteem boost? 
  • What are the consequences for me, my team and/or my organization?
  • THIS IS THE IMPORTANT QUESTION:  What is actually worth fighting for in your professional life?  What’s the bigger cause that has great meaning to you, the people that matter to you, and the world around you?
  • How can you shape your leadership around that, and engage others to bring the best of themselves to that purpose, mission or vision?    

Good luck.  May the force be with you. 

Okay, I’ll admit someone else has my dream job—advising Hollywood studios about the archetypal resonance of film scripts.  The guy who does this can predict a flop or a hit based on whether the storyline plays out the way the human psyche wants it to—the same way it does in the most universally known stories that people love to know and tell.  So, yep, a movie called The Breakup flopped because, well. . . the couple broke up, and learned absolutely nothing in the process.  Ever heard of this movie?  I didn’t think so.  The movie tanked because it had nothing very meaningful to say about its core storyline—the Lover’s search for connection. 

A current movie that actually nails an archetype is Yesterday, a delightful take on the Creator storyline that you can see either as a cautionary tale or a redemption arc for its main character.  No spoilers here—you’ll find out in the first 10 minutes that our struggling musician protagonist, Jack, wakes up after a freak global blackout to find out he’s the only person who remembers the Beatles or any of their songs.  Since no one knows he didn’t write the songs, Jack rises to fame by claiming and performing them as his own.  This is not as much fun as it looks, though—especially since Jack is a true Creator, and his actions have dropped him right into a disempowering version of his own most essential self. 

This happens for real people and organizations all the time as well (usually without the punchlines and heightened drama, but not always!).  I help clients define a character that represents who they are at their best—each of which has both an empowering and disempowering way of showing up in the world.  Getting conscious about both sides of that coin is a critical facet of professional and organizational development.  It’s one of the most important things a coach or consultant can learn to do with clients–or a leader can introduce–to shape a high-performance, high-contribution team or culture. 

Getting conscious about your story level

This is the first post in a four-blog series about how our core story types can empower or disempower us—and getting conscious about what that can mean.  I’ll be referencing Dr. Carol S. Pearson’s 12-archetype motivation model, which is organized into quadrants built around the four most important tasks of professional life (and the human needs that drive them). 

In this post, we’ll be looking at story types in the systems and structures quadrant (Creator, Caregiver and Ruler), which revolve around making things work better so that our lives and workplaces feel more stable and secure.  Creators do this by developing and leveraging ideas; Caregivers by developing and supporting people; Rulers by developing and using resources.  Think about which one of those three story types you’re most like as you keep reading.

The other thing to remember is that we’re all constantly shifting in and out of three perspectives as our storylines play out:  there’s a focus on the self, or on an affinity group that matters to us, or on a more expanded sense of connection with other human beings.  As I’ve worked with the model over the years, I’ve seen that our actions can be empowering or disempowering at any of these levels.  People have the ability to do great good or significant harm in the name of ourselves, the groups that are most important to us, and the larger world around us as well

Let’s see how this can look for the three story types in the making things work quadrant.  The labels in each box characterize how that person or organization might show up in each of the story levels (both empowering and disempowering).  These aren’t the only trajectories possible for each type, but they’re good examples: 

So what happened with our Creator friend Jack in Yesterday?  Instead of tinkering around with ideas—eventually making or generating things that matter to society itself—he fell into the disempowering trap of imitating those around him and eventually perpetrating actual fraud to build his own creator persona. 

It’s different for other story types.  A Caregiver can be a great supporter, an inspired developer of people or a true servant leader who prioritizes the needs of others.  That same person can also take on too much responsibility for the people around them, become a self-sacrificing martyr or even stifle self reliance and independence in others.

A Ruler type may be really effective take-charge manager, an orchestrator who helps everything run smoothly, or a steward who looks out for the good of an entire enterprise.  That same person can also become too controlling (in a way that pressures themselves and others)—eventually dominating those around them and dictating all the terms for entire groups, enterprises and cultures. 

Getting back to your empowering ground

So if you want to get yourself back on to more empowering ground, the only real path is to get more conscious about how you show up and what that means.  Think about a current situation and ask yourself these questions about your own story type:

  • Have I slipped into one of the disempowering ways of acting here?  NOTE:  Be brutally honest!
  • What does that look like and feel like (for me and others)?  NOTE:  Be brutally honest again!
  • How’s that working out for me and the people around me?
  • How can I shift my energy, attitude and action into one of the more empowering levels?
  • What could the “happy ending” be like if I did? 

Since teams and whole organizations can also form a story-based identity, these questions can also apply to any group. 

So how did Jack’s story turn out—did he live out his life as a fraudster, or a find a way to be a generator with ideas that benefitted others?  You’ll have to see the movie yourself to find out!  Just remember—there’s almost always an empowering way to show up as who you really are.  It could be a long and winding road, but a great trip! 

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the principal of The Storybranding Group and co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (SVSS).  Cindy helps individual and organizational clients cast themselves in a compelling, enduring story that authentically conveys their unique value.  Take the SVSS for yourself here:  http://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/

SPOILER ALERT:  IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE LAST SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES—AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS—DON’T READ THIS BLOG POST! 

Last week, more than a million people signed a petition demanding a re-do of the entire final season of the wildly popular Game of Thrones TV series.  That’s more than the populations of Montana, Delaware, Rhode Island and five other states in the U.S.; more people than live in Iceland, Fiji or Luxembourg (and several hundred other countries as well). 

Why so much energy and outrage about a TV show?  There were hundreds of reasons cited via media channels, blog posts, comment threads and discussion websites, but it all boiled down to one core issue:

Game of Thrones jumped the archetype.

Archetypes are narrative grooves that are deeply etched into the human unconscious because they reflect and reinforce universal human expectations and needs.  Archetypal story lines are repeated over and over again in the tales that move people most, feature almost inevitable outcomes, and tap into motivational patterns that help us see and make meaning of what’s going on inside and around us.  Archetypal dissonance occurs when a narrative disrupts those patterns in seemingly meaningless ways—either in how it’s told or how it ends.  Game of Thrones ultimately upset the apple cart on both fronts.

Stories about power (the Ruler archetype), vision (the Magician archetype) and connection (the Lover archetype) are among the most potent of the archetypal story lines. Game of Thrones was largely a Ruler story, but it dabbled in the other themes as well, to very mixed results—and ultimately didn’t leave a clear or compelling message about its core premise.  That left a lot of questions about what kind of story people had invested in for nearly a decade.  Was it a cautionary tale?  A morality play?  A romantic tragedy?  And what, in the end, actually mattered about it?

I feel like three things happened in Game of Thrones that led to the outrage:

  • The show became plot driven instead of character driven. The show runners short circuited the storytelling in favor of plot machinations, leaving it very unclear what was motivating many of the main characters (or why those motivations changed so quickly and so decisively).  That’s especially true when it comes to Queen Daenerys, whose absolute corruption may have been foreshadowed but unfolded in a whiplash time frame.  Effective story tellers can subvert traditional narrative themes, but not in a way that wipes out most of the previous character development and almost all of the values that shaped our understanding of them. 
  • The ending mixed up the archetypes. In what had previously been a Ruler story line, the ending was essentially about a Magician gaining the power (but without a real Magician payoff).  The seer became the king—but despite having magical powers, Bran didn’t convey any vision for moving a kingdom forward to go along with them.  His ascension didn’t feel earned, either through action or through an empowering aspiration that others seemed likely to follow. 
  • The ending wasn’t really right for our times.  The story had the look of medieval times, but it was a fantasy not entirely bound by the constructs of any specific period.  Yes, it ultimately sowed the idea that a move away from monarchs towards a kind of democracy is the right direction—but its end note involved depicting its strongest female leader as rapidly succumbing to drunken power, and relegated the other to running a subsidiary rather than the whole enterprise.  Maybe not the best look for 2019? 

So, what does any of this have to do with workplace leadership, culture building or branding?  Quite a lot, actually.  People and organizations make these same kinds of mistakes all the time.  So here are some key take-aways for leaders from the Game of Thrones uproar: 

  • Take purposeful action and act from authentic motivation.  There’s a lot of propulsive action in organizations these days (like in the final episodes of Game of Thrones), and much of it is more plot driven than character driven.  Driving blindly toward results instead of purpose or mission is a great example of that.  In that case, motivation can seem very shallow to others (and certainly not empowering or engaging enough to prompt genuine commitment and contribution). 
  • Take the time to see and understand who you really are (and who your organization is)—and live by that.  This will make your authentic motivational drivers very clear—and is far more likely to shape your success than drive without any particular purpose to propel it.  It also builds trust because others know what to expect and can ultimately count on it when you stay the course.
  • Convey your values and your vision.  People want to know where you’re going and why.  They want to know what you stand for and care about.  In Game of Thrones, Bran sees the future but doesn’t share anything particularly meaningful about it or what it might mean.  We also don’t really know what values will shape his actions.  Values provide the inspiration and the guard rails for moving forward (they keep you on purpose and on brand while shaping a culture that cares to do so).
  • Tell a coherent, contemporary story.  It’s hard to build internal or external brand loyalty when your story line shifts too often—there’s nothing substantive enough to sustain engagement.  The expression of it is another matter, though.  You can live out a Ruler story line (or any other) for decades, but you should refresh how the story is told much more frequently based on what’s going on in your market, in the culture, and—most importantly—in hearts and minds. 

You don’t have to take the lessons of Game of Thrones to enterprise heart.  Then again, who wants the entire population of Fiji turning against you?