The Hero Myth
We’re prone to look to for heroes that can save the day. Think George Washington, Abe Lincoln, John Wayne, Jackie Chan. Does your organization need to complete a big new project? Get a hero. Need to change the culture? Get a hero. These are lies. Lies that are very painful to buy into.
Problems with heroes
- They inevitably have weaknesses that are as great as their strengths
- They are a single point of failure. If they burnout, move on, or become toxic you loose.
- An organization that depends on heroes will fragment as it grows
- Heroes become villains really quickly when they don’t save the day
- There is always a lot of drama in hero based organizations
- and on and on…
To counter the hero myth build strong teams that have high trust, sharing of responsibility, and the ability to openly discuss and debate problems. Hero mentalities only exist in organizations that tend to silo themselves. Just think about it, the more you work with even the best people in the world you see that they have weaknesses and areas that they need help. The hero mentality wouldn’t exist if there was high levels of cooperation.
Invest in your team
Team members can be treated like cogs that each have a function. But I warn you, leader, building a team of cogs is WAY more work. You’ll spend all of your time in maintenance mode figuring out what’s broken. You’ll need to constantly repair and replace. When you build and lead a well functioning team you’ll need to do very little maintenance because each member of your team will be looking to fix problems together. You will multiply your effectiveness.
Give away credit
This is really important—when the team you lead does well don’t hog the credit. Rant about them… They did it. We did it. It was us. It was the team, not just me. You’ll find that by giving away credit people begin to own the vision, they begin having breakthrough ideas, and they multiply—not just add to—the overall effect.
Give away ownership
When I lead teams I try to give people roles that they can feel ownership over, and not just tasks. One way that I do this is by separating everything that our team does into projects and operations. Operations are great to delegate ownership of because they have generally understood goals and methods of accomplishing the goals. I try to make a dashboard that lists out every operational function that my team is responsible for. Every function has an owners name next to it, and at our weekly team meetings we rate each function as a team. This allows team members to be self critical and in constant states of evaluation over their responsibilities.
If you’re the leader you don’t need to pretend like you know how to do everything. It’s perfectly fine to admit your weak areas. It invites others on your team to step in and compliment your weakness with their strength.
What have you done to build teams?