Perspective truly is everything. The way we see the world shapes the way we move through it. Our sense of self is simply the simplification of all the different perspectives we have of the outside world and our inner thoughts wrapped into one. Imagine if all the rivers of the world spanning from high mountains, through deep valleys, dank swamps, and shallow brooks funneled into one stream. That stream would be your sense of self, your mind’s way of filtering through everything.
The way society and culture shape our image of that stream shifts how we think about the world. This shaping effect is present in any organization but goes way back and on a grander scale. Specifically, I am referencing the way societies are shaped by religion and mythology. For instance, in the Christian religion, God is omnipotent and omnipresent as the creator of the universe. This perspective places people at the mercy of God. In ancient Greek mythology, the universe created the gods, or at least their parents the Titans.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the main god Horus was directly connected to the Pharaoh or Queen. These gods looked intimidating, resembling half animal and half person and drew a distinct distinction between the gods and people. The ancient Greeks differed from the Egyptians and other ancient civilizations because their gods were the first to resemble people. This allowed people to realize their significance in the world. This radical shift in perception allowed for rational thought and welcomed a more scientific manner of thinking. Whereas the Egyptian gods represented protection and nourishment for society, focusing on keeping the people safe and preparing them for the afterlife, the Greeks used myth as an early form of science.
Seeing the beauty of the athletes from the Olympic games and modeling their gods after them, allowed people to relate to the gods. Each god having their own story, manifested to explain culture, emotions, and troubles of the times. Their tales focused on the living and explaining life. We can learn a lot from these ancient myths, studying mythology provides insight into ancient civilizations, what they were going through, what troubles they had, and how they dealt with them. Mythology is a branch of history, granting us a simplified version of a time as complex as our own.
In the early stages of Greek mythology, Zeus, king of the gods was prayed to as a rain god when agriculture was their primary concern, but as society matured, people sought him out to find justice as a way of dealing with the concerns of a civilization. These stories sparked new thoughts in the Greek’s minds. Hesiod a Greek Farmer from the 9th century BCE was the first person to contemplate how everything came into existence. Hesiod wondered what our place was in all this and why we are here. He contemplated how it all works. The gods were used to explain these phenomena and answer these questions. This was the beginning of people’s search for excellence, or as they referred to it, virtue. When we read about Ancient Greece’s search for virtue, we misinterpret it as “well-mannered and goodness,” but it can be more accurately translated to mean excellence. They were a civilization driven towards excellence. As Aristotle said, “excellence, much labored for by the race of mortals.”
This perspective of the gods as not being omnipresent or omnipotent, but rather children of the earth, created by the universe just as humanity was created gave society its first perspective that we are special, and we can influence the world. The Greek’s perspective of their place in the world changed the trajectory of society forever. Viewing, the gods and people as both created by a higher power influenced their society in such a manner that is still reflected today. Zeus, although king of the gods was commonly seen making the same mistakes as humanity. Although he was a just god, he reminds us people make mistakes and that’s ok.
The perspective your team has of their leadership influences their perspective of their place on the team. Do you resemble more of an intimidating figure, that is unapproachable and only there to provide a job and resources such as Horus or a relatable figure that people can look up to for guidance such as Zeus? If a leader is not in the trenches with her people, is that empowering her staff? The stories of the gods of Olympus were more relatable to the people of their time than other mythologies, as evident by their countless interactions with humanity. Although they had a firm foot when necessary, Greek gods were also known for giving generous gifts to their people. They forgave, forgot, and granted when the people were worthy. This gave birth to democracy. What type of empowerment are you providing your people based on their interactions with you?