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wendy quinn author

Wendy Quinn

Living with the hero's journey

Mangling the Tango

published in February 2019

Many years ago, just setting out on my career in leadership and management in health and human services, I was reading a book by Robert Greenleaf on the concept of servant leadership. In it was a circular diagram of the Hero’s Journey together with a very brief description of the archetypal pattern.

the hero's journey

Not long before, I had been through a very difficult time. It had challenged the very core of my identity and understanding of myself, including my role in leadership and working with other people. The detail of this journey is however, part of a larger story.

In summary, out of an intense two-year period spent grappling with inner demons, external enemies and a series of seemingly insurmountable challenges, I eventually emerged as a transformed person.

My fears, self-doubt and loneliness were replaced with an extreme awareness of grace at work around and through me together with a new confidence that my life was precious and had an important purpose.

I had experienced the ‘paradox of pain’ where I had encountered a divine presence in the depths of my despair and this completely changed my understanding of everything that I thought I had known up until that point in life. Mystical encounters and meaningful coincidences of events and interactions with people could not be explained rationally.

These experiences left me with the lingering presence of joy and peace together with a heightened empathy for others who are suffering. It led to a renewed commitment for a life of leadership, but this time with my eyes newly opened regarding my own vulnerabilities and flaws.

There was also a greater understanding of the full spectrum of the range of people I would most likely encounter along the way.

The pattern of the Hero’s Journey that I had come across in the Robert Greenleaf book resonated profoundly with me. I could see in it the pattern of what I had just lived through. Contemplating the stages of the journey over the following months helped me make sense of what had happened and integrate the experience.

In the following years, and without a clear intention at the beginning, I began to use the archetypal pattern of the Hero’s Journey as a companion in my life and leadership adventures.

As my career unfolded, I moved into increasingly senior leadership positions and found myself working in areas that involved all of the complexity of the human condition. These included mental health, palliative care, disability, correctional health and complex exceptional needs.

Not surprisingly, I was called to Adventures in many other Hero’s Journeys. Increasingly, I became more adept at seeing the pattern and its stages, and even began experimenting with learning to relax into them. I was however, not yet ready to welcome them.

Wendy Quinn



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