As an individual act, leadership is most often seen as heroic in some sense. I describe the models of leadership that prevail in business as heroic, because they treat the leader as the center of their way of thinking with the expectation that the leaders behavior determines the success of any enterprise.
And leadership is heroic. There are situations, moments, events in which heroic leadership crystallizes action on the part of others so that something of value to the leader and to the followers is achieved. This is most obvious in our archetypal leadership situations in scenes of war, sports and other “action-oriented” events.
Heroic leadership is apparent in politics and business. Martin Luther King, Jr. on whose birthday I am writing this, was certainly a heroic leader. Suu Kyi in Burma, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Churchill, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Mandela, and so many, many other men and women have demonstrated their leadership in times of crisis and challenge. Their leadership has been portrayed as “archetypally” heroic.
In business we have other leaders who have been so portrayed, albeit often with less glory. In modern times, Welch, Iacocca, Jobs, are names that come to mind. Our literature treats business executives as heroic leaders by implication. They save companies, open new markets, innovate, etc.
Yet, it the face of rapid change and complexity, the heroic model of leadership is important AND insufficient. Here’s another quote:
“The era of the CEO as Zeus on high has really been broken down. When I’m at a meeting with a bunch of bright, energized people, I really don’t think of myself in that way.” Deborah Coleman, former Apple CFO and CEO of Merix Corp.
> Russ Volckmann