The waning charm of Heroism in corporate leadership
For several decades, the corporate world adored and celebrated heroism as a style of leading organisations.
There were biographies and autobiographies. They appeared on the cover of magazines all the time. Their unique styles and practices found mention in management programs and they were truly larger than life. Those a few levels removed adored then and those up close feared them. Narcissism was the order of the day.
Most importantly, there was this notion that one powerful man or woman could fight countless enemies, crush evil, display endless energy, come up with all the smart ideas all the time and be relied upon to lead the organisation single-handedly into its bright future, forever.
In my view, that has perhaps changed or begun to change. Many of us used to remember the names of most Fortune 100 CEOs and the CEOs of India’s largest or most admired companies. Today, many of us need to perhaps google to find out the names of current leaders.
In fact, there is a lot written about the irrelevance of the John Wayne style of leadership in the west. Replace John Wayne with any of the Indian heros and heroines and the message remains as relevant.
They are more quiet, less flamboyant and just minding their work along with their team. Yes, the idea of shared leadership has begun to take deep roots today than ever before. It is clear that the task of leading an organisation is too large and complex and risky to be left to the wisdom and will and fancy of a single person.
From a psychological perspective, narcissism is certainly not considered cool.
Equally, ascribing the reasons for the success of an organization to a single person also seem more fallacious today than ever before.
Perhaps Boards are also doing their bit to emphasise the importance of depth and diversity in thought, ideas and styles.
Also, the opportunity and need for today’s leaders to look themselves in the mirror, receive real-time feedback is bringing reality testing to their door step.
The notion of leadership as a shared endeavour is alive and thriving and that is great.