Join me to stay up-to-date and get my new articles delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.
In a world as complex and interconnected as the one we live in, the idea that one person has the answer is ludicrous. It’s not only ineffective, it’s dangerous, because it leads us to believe that it’s been solved by that hero, and we have no role.
We don’t need heroes. We need radical interdependence, which is just another way of saying we need each other. Even though other people can be really difficult, sometimes.
True collaboration is possible, but it’s subtle and it’s complex. And the leaders in this space are doing a few things very differently from traditional heroic leaders. They set goals differently, they announce those goals differently and they have a very different relationship with other people.
A hero sets a goal that can be individually delivered and neatly measured. Interdependent leaders, on the other hand, start with a goal that’s really important, but is actually impossible to achieve by one company or one person alone.
The second big difference for collaborators is their willingness to declare their goals before they have a plan. Now the hero only reveals their carefully crafted goal when the path to achieve it is clear. In fact, the role of the hero announcement is to set the stage for the big win. Hero announcements are full of triumph. Interdependent leaders, on the other hand, want other people to help them, so their announcements are often an invitation for co-creation, and sometimes, they’re a call for help.
Heroes see everyone as a competitor or a follower. Heroes don’t want input, because they want to control everything because they want the credit. And you can see this in a typical hero meeting. Heroes like making speeches. People lean back in their chairs, maybe impressed but not engaged. Interdependent leaders, on the other hand, understand that they need other people. They know that meetings are not just mindless calendar fillers. These are the most precious things you have. It’s where people collaborate and communicate and share ideas. People lean forward in meetings like this, wondering where they might fit in.
Interdependence is a lot harder than being a hero. It requires us to be open and transparent and vulnerable, and that’s not what traditional leaders have been trained to do. I thought being a hero would keep me safe. I thought that in the elevation and separation that comes from heroic leadership, that I would be untouchable. This is an illusion.