No need for superheroes
Leaders are those who…
...are able to keep the bar straight during the storm
...remain calm and cool under enormous pressure
...give direction to safely reach the destination even in dense fog
...are able to answer the most challenging questions
Do you know anyone who would satisfy all these criteria?
Well, I personally don’t, although I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great leaders on my path.
I believe that satisfying these criteria would not make us leaders, but rather superheroes, and too often these two concepts are a bit blurred.
The result of this blur?
On one hand, leaders are confronted with irrealistic expectations, which might lead to unbearable levels of stress and huge costs for their physical, mental and emotional health.
On the other, this gives all the remaining 90+% of people, who don’t think themselves as leaders, a very good excuse to not even try.
While I am writing this, a sudden, a bit unexpected parallel comes to my mind.
It was Mothers’ Day a few weeks ago.
On that day, social media were overflowed by endless memes and posts about the heroism of mothers: able to take business calls while cooking, working on their pcs while breast-feeding, working until late hours in the office but never missing their kid’s soccer game etc.
Quite frankly, I think this is bull**!
Mothers don’t need to be called heroes and don’t need to do all this in order to try to be one.
They should be ordinary people doing their best, empowering and trusting those around them (partners? teachers? support network?...) to also do their best to reach a common objective.
In both cases, I do believe it is time to debunk this superhero myth, and consider the true essence of leadership as the ability to express the best of our potential, and help others to express theirs.
As B. Brown beautifully wrote in her book Dare to Lead “Leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential. Leadership is not about titles. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage”.
So it is maybe time to leave that superhero mantle, or stop looking for one, and instead embrace the fact that nobody has all the answers, have the courage to not shy away from the difficult conversations that need to happen and trust those around us to co-create good answers with us.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to work or live with Superman or Wonderwoman.
Yes, it would be reassuring to know that they could always solve any situation and rescue anyone in danger, but I would feel meaningless and irrelevant, not able to have a real impact on the world around me.