Leadership development and the Myth of Heroic Leadership

September 13, 2017 by Wally Bock

Leadership development lessons abound in Raffaella Sadun’s HBR article, “Google’s Secret Formula for Management? Doing the Basics Well.” Here’s the golden kernel.

“Google has opened its trove of management processes to one and all, for free. It might not feel that surprising — after all, Google has created plenty of free tools for the world to use, from internet search to email. Management tools may not seem that different. And it also follows Google’s many years of work in people analytics. But, in fact, there is something surprising in the details of what Google revealed. Turns out a lot of its management tools focus on some pretty basic stuff, like how to run meetings, have conversations, and set goals.”

Yep, basic management practices require leaders to learn some skills, many of which aren’t taught in business school. In business school, every student is presumed to be a “CEO in potency” and so instruction in lofty cerebral skills and complicated planning and finance models are common.

Alas, that’s not reality for most managers. Most managers are responsible for the performance of a small group, nestled in the middle of a large organization. There basic people skills matter more than strategy. To make matters worse, we buy the myth that great leaders are heroic.

Leadership development and the myth of heroic leadership

The myth of heroic leadership paints leaders as superhuman people who swoop in to save the day when things go bad. In fact, the best leaders are fire prevention experts, not fire fighters.

The best leaders make sure that routine things are done routinely. They develop processes that help people do things well. The spend an astounding amount of time communicating.

That’s what our leadership development programs should strive to produce. Teach the skills that enable leaders to do the regular, everyday work that prevents crises. Help them develop the habits and attention patterns that will help them help their team and their team members succeed.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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