Heroic Leadership is Dead: Stop Trying to Go It Alone

Recently, I hosted a webinar on a topic near and dear to my heart: our need to reinvent our relationship with what it means to be a leader.

When I asked our webinar attendees if they felt pressure to be “all things to all people” as leaders, the overwhelming majority said yes. This is a problem.

The practice of leadership has become more and more complex as our world gets more and more complex. As leaders, we are expected to drive results, while at the same time balance the needs of people. So, be great at strategy, but ensure execution is happening. Drive your team to higher levels of performance with fewer resources but ensure everyone’s mental health is being considered. Be resilient, be kind, be forceful when you need to be, be organized, be agile, be innovative, be efficient… the list is never-ending.

As leaders, we are repeatedly told to “never let them see you sweat” and that “it’s lonely at the top.” It’s time to kick those narratives to the curb. The future of leadership is going to be with our ability to move from a highly individualized view of a leader being able to be the one stop shop, to a collective approach where teams lean in and cultivate success together.

Here are three ways we can all move from carrying the weight of leadership on our shoulders, to building teams and systems that share leadership.

  1. Shift your mindset. Self awareness is an absolute baseline for effective leaders but it’s no longer enough to be self aware. Too many leaders ‘tap out’ from development once they know what makes them tick. To curate a collective approach to leadership, we need to invest time understanding our teammates and our teams. How are you broadening your understanding and cultivating and strengthening partnerships as a collective? Consider sharing assessment results, creating cultures of ‘feedforward’ and identifying strengthening working relationships by creating Personal Operating Manuals and sharing them.
  2. Strengthen your behaviours. Research from our colleagues at Management Research Group showcases the fact that the majority of leaders don’t balance the fundamentals of a focus on relationships with a focus on results effectively. In fact, 99% of us don’t do it well. MRG has isolated four key behaviours that we all probably need to get more intentional about to achieve better balance: cooperation and empathy (if you’re looking to be more relationship-focused) and production and control (if you need to up your results focus). Hit the link to get tips on how you can build each of these behaviours.
  3. Start a community. Whether your starting your own peer group (my book The Grassroots Leadership Revolution can help you do that), or joining a peer group (check out our Roundtable for Leaders program), or building learning opportunities with your team (ask us about our Team Coaching programs), shifting the emphasis from individual development to collective development is a simple way to strengthen relationships and results and reduce feelings of loneliness and the pressure we often feel as leaders to “go it alone.”

Here’s a link to the webinar recording. Thank you to all our members and colleagues who attended the session and for all the great ideas you shared in the chat.

Join us on June 15 when my colleague Deb Mashek joins us to talk about her book Collabor(h)ate. With the need for collaboration on the rise, Deb is chockfull of ideas and tips to make the whole experience more enjoyable and productive. Register here.

As always, if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you unleash collective impact in your organizations, reach out.

Happy Leading!


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