September 29, 2023

we don’t need another hero

Author: Harold Jarche
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People in leadership positions are very busy — too busy it seems.

“CEOs attend an endless stream of meetings, each of which can be totally different from the one before and the one that follows. Their sheer number and variety is a defining feature of the top job. On average, the leaders in our study had 37 meetings of assorted lengths in any given week and spent 72% of their total work time in meetings.” —HBR 2018-07

But being busy makes them feel important — perhaps even heroic.

“Many of us can get caught up acting like heroes, not from power drives, but from our good intentions and desires to help. Are you acting as a hero? Here’s how to know. You’re acting as a hero when you believe that if you just work harder, you’ll fix things; that if you just get smarter or learn a new technique, you’ll be able to solve problems for others. You’re acting as a hero if you take on more and more projects and causes and have less time for relationships. You’re playing the hero if you believe that you can save the situation, the person, the world.” —Margaret Wheatley

As Margaret Wheatly states, “Heroic leadership rests on the illusion that someone can be in control.” But we don’t need heoes, we need learners.

Wheatley proposes that heroes become hosts. I think the best host is one who can learn and help others to learn. In other words, make the network smarter.

Margaret Wheatley says that hosting leaders must —

  • provide conditions and good group processes for people to work together

  • provide resources of time, the scarcest commodity of all

  • insist that people and the system learn from experience, frequently

  • offer unequivocal support—people know the leader is there for them

  • keep the bureaucracy at bay, creating oases (or bunkers) where people are less encumbered by senseless demands for reports and administrivia

  • play defense with other leaders who want to take back control, who are critical that people have been given too much freedom

  • reflect back to people on a regular basis how they’re doing, what they’re accomplishing, how far they’ve journeyed

  • work with people to develop relevant measures of progress to make their achievements visible

  • value conviviality and esprit de corps—not false rah‐rah activities, but the spirit that arises in any group that accomplishes difficult work together.

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