We all know, and have, some heroes in our organizations. People who jump in, solve problems, make themselves available, walk the extra several miles, and, more importantly, grab crisis’ and deal with them, whether asked or not.
There is also another feel and look of some heroes: works very long hours, puts the company above anything else, pulls out resources and brings people along, usually also in the same long hours. Life-work balance? What’s that?
Other heroes solve unprecedented situations, ‘kill’ themselves in the process, grab the crisis, particularly the Friday afternoon ones, save a lot of money for the company and turn up on the front page of the Company Magazine shaking hands with the CEO.
The super-hero, senor executive type, is adrenaline driven, jumps ahead usually to solve something drastic (‘Mary, get me on the 4:50 pm United flight to Munich’) and may or may not bring others with him. There is a type of senior hero, the Flying Saviour, who is particularly dangerous. I’ve known (and suffered) a few in my life. They cause havoc. They will be nothing without a good crisis. So they are very good at creating one.
Do you want a company formed by, or run by heroes? Do you want a culture of adrenaline excess, no weekends, long hours, dreadful mental health and always solving crisis? Do you want a culture where people say ‘I start at 8am with meetings and I have one after another until 6pm’? Said not as an anecdote but pretty much as the norm? A company of people extraordinarily busy? Where Busy-ness has supplanted busi-ness?
In fact, my original definition of a hero, how I started above – ‘People who jump in, solve problems, make themselves available, walk the extra several miles, and, more importantly, grab crisis’ and deal with them, whether asked or not’ – runs pretty close to a definition of accountability. And you want that. You want these kind of people. But we are sometimes calling ‘heroes’ to people who have full accountability. How bad is that?
Do your homework distinguishing between ‘heroes’ and ‘heroes’. Welcome the individual, heroic and occasional contributions. But if ‘heroics’ take over day to day life, if there is no way to run the company other than in hero mode, you have a problem. Call the doctor.
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