Leadership as Meaning-Making : Take the Hero's Journey to Transformation book cover
1st Edition

Leadership as Meaning-Making
Take the Hero's Journey to Transformation

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after December 24, 2020
ISBN 9780367566043
December 24, 2020 Forthcoming by Productivity Press
184 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Based on the author’s 30 years experience of management development and a background in design and psychology, this book takes a fresh look at leadership as a systemic shared phenomenon. It is one aspect of the evolutionary principle of bringing people to maturity as human beings – transforming the immature through purposeful adventure. This is not a “how-to” book of tools and techniques but is a guide to personal development. It plots the territory of the hero’s journey (after Joseph Campbell) through unknown worlds. It explains the metaphorical relationship to personal and collective transformation by means of the cyclic pattern of the hero’s journey, overlaid with the enneagram framework. Succeeding chapters spell out practical details for making the journey towards maturity, which alone makes leadership a viable possibility. Only such purposeful leadership will enable others to make their own equivalent journeys. If such people are engaged in work, then they will be more conscious and more effective. Essentially, the book is intentionally quickly communicates a broad sweep of related ideas that form a philosophy for the development of the inner qualities of effective leadership, applicable in all walks of life. The story of the archetypical hero’s journey is suggested as applying to every individual. The hero’s journey is an allegory for a quest for inner growth. It can rub off onto others through what we call “leadership”. Such leadership is what brings meaning to people’s lives. Thus this book is a counter to the empty manipulative techniques propagated by much of the popular writing on leadership, which pays little attention to transformative interaction. There are exercises at the end of each chapter and additional material is available to readers via the internet.

Table of Contents


Introduction – Life-cycles and the hero’s journey

Chapter 1 Worlds of Perception – An adventure in wholeness

Chapter 2 Creative Cycle – The enneagram framework

Chapter 3 Triad of Inner Development – Being and becoming

Chapter 4 Triad of Action – How maturity shows up in the world

Chapter 5 Pattern Thinking – Making Sense, making meaning

Chapter 6 Self-Organization – Co-creative leadership and teamwork

Chapter 7 Clarity of Vision – Strategies for success

Chapter 8 A Sense of Purpose – Making a meaning-field

Chapter 9 Commitment – Embark on your hero’s journey

Chapter 10 The Author’s Own Journey



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John Varney is founder and chief executive of Centre for Management Creativity, based in the UK. He provides facilitation, methods, products and places for inspiring vision, developing strategy and helping people adopt a creative approach to challenge and change. John’s early career in architecture culminated in his own small practice in Surrey. As an alpinist, his personal leadership developed through the introduction of many novices to the mountains. Influenced by the philosopher, J.G. Bennett, and inspired by the creativity of the Bauhaus, he decided to pursue his vision of establishing a centre for developing human potential through experiential learning. He set up High Trenhouse as a learning project in 1976 and in 1989 established The Centre for Management Creativity, which has grown into a multi-facetted company with a reputation for getting results. John is coach, consultant and facilitator to senior management teams of major organisations, as well as to community groups and individuals. His work is in developing attitudes and beliefs for success, building relationships and behaviours, inspiring shared visons and articulating strategies. It embraces inter-company collaboration, strategy innovation, teamwork, authentic leadership, thinking methodology and creativity through team and personal coaching. He is a pioneer in the application of visual thinking methods to enhance educational and organisational effectiveness.


In his new book, Varney relates the idea of the hero’s journey, not to fame or celebrity, but to every individual’s need to set out on a quest to become whole and mature as a human being. He relates the hero’s journey to the process enneagram and the triad of being and becoming. Beyond that, he suggests that cyclic patterns are universal and that by tuning into them we can tune into higher perceptions. Taken together, these ideas point to a different way of thinking that may lead us to more fulfilling and meaningful lives and a more wholesome society.

  • Dr William Tate, Director, The Institute for Systemic Leadership; Author of The Search for Leadership: An Organisational Perspective