Do Leaders Have to be Heroes?

A Heroic Leader?

A Heroic Leader?

The traditional view of leadership is that leaders are a kind of hero – the commander on a horse saying ‘follow me!’

Heroes are experts. They speak with confidence and authority. Heroes are clear about what is right and what is wrong. This allows them to be decisive.

Maybe this style and certainty gives the people around them a feeling of security. Maybe this enhanced security encourages others to say to themselves ‘yes, I’ll follow you!’?

Richard Wilson of OSCA has written a book called ANTI HERO. He argues that the world is changing. Many of the challenges faced by organisations are more complex. There are too many interdependencies for the Hero leadership model to work.

He argues that the world needs leaders to be more comfortable with uncertainty.

Some might describe the change that he’s advocating as an integration of the stereotypical masculine qualities, such as boldness, decisiveness, action-orientation, with more feminine qualities, such as flexibility, sensitivity, generosity and a more questioning than telling style. Though there are dangers is using these descriptors.

Richard points out that experts know a lot about only a few things. They can easily miss the significance of something outside their experience. By contrast, the Anti-hero knows a little about lots of things, so is potentially in a better place to spot some of the less obvious but important issues and their interdependencies!

Richard acknowledges that the world still needs Hero leaders for some contexts, for example in emergencies or military situations.

But one of the problems is that the current system doesn’t allow Anti-hero leaders to rise to the top. There seems to be an inherent resistance to this happening. Why is that?

For more about this important book Anti Hero see

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