Research Spotlight: Myths and legends in leadership

Leadership superheroCompanies spend millions of dollars trying to understand and change their cultures. It can doom mergers and derail careers: 90 percent of acquisitions don’t live up to expectations due commonly to culture clashes. John Slocum, O. Paul Corley Distinguished Professor of Management and Organizations in SMU’s Cox School of Business, has turned for solutions to institutions ranging from Mary Kay Cosmetics to Whole Foods and from Johnson & Johnson to the Mayo Clinic – all organizations in which founders have left a deep imprint. Their common principle – which Slocum calls “mythopoetic leadership” – has its roots in myth, storytelling and the teachings of Joseph Campbell, and it can inspire employees and managers to achieve great things personally and professionally. In “Creating Cultures Through Mythopoetic Leadership,” Slocum and co-author Chip Jarnagin explore this kind of leadership as a framework for developing corporate cultures and “heroic values” based on myths and archetypes – and identify 7 behaviors senior executives should develop to bring out the best in employees and ensure sustained high performance. Read more at the Cox School’s faculty research site.