–While in the role of a hero, one cannot be a leader; while in the role of a leader, one makes heroes of others.–
In a society where leaders and heroes are revered, the above statement may startle you. However, the term heroic leader is an oxymoron. In 2020, the Philadelphia newspapers referred to football quarterback Carson Wentz as a hero, however it was not a compliment. Carson had received accolades for his leadership coming out of college. Now the hero label was a criticism of his attempts to make plays on his own without relying on his teammates. In 2021, Carson Wentz requested a trade out of Philadelphia following a disastrous win/loss record.
At this point, the casual reader may jump to the conclusion that we are criticizing heroes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In the U.S. and the world for example, we owe a great debt to the healthcare heroes who continue to risk their lives to treat the sick during the pandemic and the military heroes who defend freedom. We consider heroes as a widening range of individuals whose behavior is ubiquitous with social responsibility and courage, inspirational to adults and young children alike.
The one thing that leaders and heroes have in common is courage. Heroes act on their good impulses at the risk of their safety; Leaders act on their purpose at the expense of their ego and their impulses. Both are courageous.
Why Leaders Cannot be Heroes
Let’s build the case for why people cannot play this dual role at the same time.
- Heroes have a short-term perspective, while leaders take the long view. Heroes do not consider long-term processes or outcomes, and instead prefer to make personal fixes in the here-and-now as opposed to asking what can be done for the team that allows them to fix all future issues themselves.
- Heroes get it done themselves. Leaders get things done through other people.
- Heroes act on impulse. Leaders execute strategic plans.
The Darkside of Leaders who Confuse Heroism with Leadership
Those that assume the hero role too often or for long periods of time do a disservice to their organizations:
- Many times heroes solve symptoms but not the core problems.
- Their direct reports don’t build the skills to solve (or prevent) future problems.
- The short term focus sometimes has long term negative consequences for the business.
So keep in mind that when needing to assume the role of hero, make sure it is absolutely necessary — and only for the period of time to address the problem. Then switch back to developing and making heroes of others.
If you haven’t gathered by now, we understand and develop talent in ways that others don’t. Care to have a short conversation on how we could potentially help you? Contact us at [email protected]. Even if you decide not to do business with us, you’ll get value from the conversation — and we know we will too.