No More Heroes? #2


In the first post of this series, No More Heroes? #1, I introduced the concept of post-heroic leadership and gave some reasons for its rise. I also suggested that I have a problem with it, and here it is. I don’t like the name.Now this might strike you as rather feeble. Who cares what a thing is named? It’s the meaning that matters! The purpose of a name is to point to the reality. Of itself, a name is insignificant.

The problem with this analysis is that it underestimates the power of words. Especially a word like hero, which is a deeply evocative, emotive word, an archetypal word, a word that resonates with meaning in the collective unconsciousness of all humanity.

Proof? Imagine these scenarios. The CEO of a large organisation stands up to make a speech in front of her staff.

Scenario 1: “There are no more heroes in this organisation. We’re beyond that stage now. Everyone has to take greater responsibility and solve their own problems.”

Effect? Internal groans, apprehension about an added workload and therefore paper-load, the beginnings of panic should support fail, and scepticism over management motives.

Scenario 2: “Everyone is a hero in this organisation. You don’t need management to tell you what needs done. We’re going to give you the freedom to get on and do it.”

Effect? Increased self-esteem due to management appreciation of ability, excitement about future initiatives, and a sense of relief!

To be fair, I think that this is a point that John Huey himself anticipated when he wrote about the post-heroic leadership model:

“It still requires many of the attributes that have always distinguished the best leaders – intelligence, commitment, energy, courage of conviction, integrity. But here’s the big difference: it expects those qualities of just about everyone in the organization.”

In other words, instead of an organisation with a few heroes at the top of the pyramid, now we have organisations in which everyone is a hero!

So my suggestion? Call it something different. Call it pan-heroic leadership.

I don’t think we will ever get to a stage in society or work where the concept of herohood becomes obsolete. Even in this cynical, post-modern age in which The Stranglers sing for ‘No More Heroes’, we are up to our necks in Z-list celebrities and third rate politicians with heroic pretensions. A more apt song is surely ‘Search For The Hero Inside Yourself’ by M People.

Which organisation in its right mind would refuse a workforce self-motivated by the heroic ideals of resourcefulness, integrity, confidence and self-sacrifice for a greater cause? A workforce of entrepreneurial heroes?

Beyond heroic leadership? Undesirable and at any rate impossible.

Leadership where all are heroes? Now that’s a tale worth telling!

Image credit: Stinkie Pinkie.