Topic: Corporate Culture

Author(s), Title and Publication

Jarnagin, C., & Slocum Jr., J. W. (2007). Creating Corporate Cultures Through Mythopoeic Leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 36(3), 288-302.


This essay introduced the concept of Mythopoeic Leadership as a framework for leaders to develop a robust corporate culture that drives employees to consistently make heroic efforts. Culture has a greater impact on a company’s success than anything else management can do. Employees who embrace their company’s culture are more committed to their company and are less likely to leave it. Mythopoeic leaders (MLs) develop corporate culture based on myths (e.g., stories of other employees’ accomplishments). It is grounded in the work of Joseph Campbell, a cultural anthropologist, whose studies demonstrated that people experience community by sharing mythological archetypes or rituals. Within organizations, myths provide a mentoring function by giving employees inspiration and direction.

An ML forms the organizational culture by developing the organization’s mythology, which is reflected in the mission statements and values of the organization. A Mythopoeic Mission (MM) is written to illustrate how the organization benefits the mankind, and is reinforced by honoring excellent employees with rites and awards. MLs have several personal qualities. They are passionate about the heroic mission and values of their organizations, not just making money. They have the rhetorical skills to tell stories illustrating their organizations’ mission and values. Also, they are empathic, inspiring, comforting, and pure in purpose. This article used Toyota Motors and the Mayo Clinic to explain the implementation of mythopoeic leadership.

Implications for Practice

The essay describes many ways in which leaders can use ML approaches to strengthen performance. Leaders can: 1) help employees believe that they have an opportunity to make a difference and provide a benefit to others; 2) define the values that reinforce the organization’s (MM) and business plan; 3) share stories grounded in the organization’s MM and Values and create their organization’s mythology; 4) create a living book that records the stories employees tell; 5) create rituals that reinforce the organization’s MM and Values); 6) select new hires who fit into the organization’s MM and Values, and enroll them in some training programs to educate them about the organizational culture, traditions, and history; and 7) connect to employees on a personal level. These ideas underscore the importance of stories and narratives in building culture..

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (full article, click “download this paper”)



Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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One thought on “Creating Corporate Cultures Through Mythopoeic Leadership

  1. I found this “mythopoeic leadership” an interesting idea! This is an era where “people want to hear authentic stories about authentic people” in genuine languages. Having employees tell their own story will inspire and motivate other employees because the relevance indicates that “the hero” could be anyone in the organization. An emphasis on purposes beyond making money and heroic efforts demonstrates the organization’s social responsibility and conscience. Such vision could also empower employees as it shows what they do not only changes an organization but also could make a difference in the society at large. Research has shown that socially responsible and ethical companies do a better job in retaining employees and building a favorable internal reputation. But, the question is, how to develop mythopoeic leadership? Actually I think the implementation of the “mythopoeic” approach should not only rely on leadership; it’s actually more of a culture issue and requires both management support and communication efforts. Such “heroic” value should be rooted in corporate vision, mission, values, and purposes, be rewarded by leaders so that it’s reinforced, and implemented consistently throughout its communication programs.

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