For too long, too many of us have been entranced by heroes. Perhaps it’s our desire to be saved, to not have to do the hard work, to rely on someone else to figure things out. Constantly we are barraged by politicians presenting themselves as heroes, the ones who will fix everything and make our problems go away. It’s a seductive image, an enticing promise. And we keep believing it. Somewhere there’s someone who will make it all better. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s visionary, inspiring, brilliant, trustworthy, and we’ll all happily follow him or her. Somewhere…
Well, it is time for all the heroes to go home, as the poet William Stafford wrote. It is time for us to give up these hopes and expectations that only breed dependency and passivity, and that do not give us solutions to the challenges we face. It is time to stop waiting for someone to save us. It is time to face the truth of our situation—that we’re all in this together, that we all have a voice—and figure out how to mobilize the hearts and minds of everyone in our workplaces and communities.
Leaders who journey from hero to host have seen past the negative dynamics of politics and opposition that hierarchy breeds, they’ve ignored the organizational charts and role descriptions that confine people’s potential. Instead, they’ve become curious. Who’s in this organization or community? What skills and capacities might they offer if they were invited into the work as full contributors? What do they know, what insights do they have that might lead to a solution to this problem?
Leaders‐as‐hosts know that people willingly support those things they’ve played a part in creating—that you can’t expect people to ‘buy‐in’ to plans and projects developed elsewhere. Leaders‐as‐hosts invest in meaningful conversations among people from many parts of the system as the most productive way to engender new insights and possibilities for action. They trust that people are willing to contribute, and that most people yearn to find meaning and possibility in their lives and work. And these leaders know that hosting others is the only way to get complex, intractable problems solved.
Leaders‐as‐hosts don’t just benevolently let go and trust that people will do good work on their own. Leaders have a great many things to attend to, but these are quite different than the work of heroes. Hosting leaders must:
The potent force that shapes behavior in these organizations and in all natural systems is the combination of simply expressed expectations of purpose, intent, and values, and the freedom for responsible individuals to make sense of these in their own way. Continue reading
In this chaotic world, we need leaders. But we don’t need bosses. We need leaders to help us develop the clear identity that lights the dark moments of confusion. We need leaders to support us as we learn how to live by our values. We need leaders to understand that we are best controlled by concepts that invite our participation, not policies and procedures that curtail our contribution. Continue reading
“…A key psychology for leading from good to great is the Stockdale Paradox. Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be…
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Truth is not a hypothesis, truth is not a dogma. Truth is neither Hindu nor Christian nor Mohammedan. Truth is neither mine nor yours. Truth belongs to nobody, but everybody belongs to truth. Continue reading
“If you can hire people whose passion intersects with the job, they won’t require any supervision at all. They will manage themselves better than anyone could ever manage them. Their fire comes from within, not from without. Their motivation is internal, not external.”
— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
But the process of illusion and disillusionment is part of life and goes on endlessly. In the early 40s what struck me forcefully was the conflict between my expectations and actual experience. At College I had come to believe that as a graduate I would automatically be at the head, leading my people in all their efforts. In a sense that was true of the majority of the Fort Hare students. Many of them left the lecture room straight to some cosy job, with a steady income and carrying a measure of influence. It is also true that graduates do enjoy the respect of the community especially in the field of education. But my experience was quite different. Continue reading