Saving the day

// 1.595 min read

Don’t confuse being a leader with being a hero. That’s a big mistake.

A hero swoops in to save the day. They’re the embodiment of capable. They’re the white knight that takes it upon themselves to carry other people to safety, so that everyone can live to fight another day.

There’s a time and a place for that. Sometimes we do need a hero to dig us out of a mess, and sometimes the job of saving the day does fall on the leader.

But only sometimes.

It’s tempting to think that being a hero makes you a leader, but if you adopt the hero mentality as the way you choose to lead people, you’ll quickly discover that it’s a terrible long-term approach.

Here’s why: If you’re saving people, that means you fundamentally believe that people need saving. You believe people aren’t capable of finding their own way to safety. You believe that, if left alone, people won’t survive without your intervention.

And heroes are often wrong.

We might be grateful initially when you save us, but it’s short lived. We quickly sense that you don’t actually have faith in us, and next time, we’ll probably start to resent your attempts to swoop in.

The problem with being saved is that it robs people of the opportunity to grow. At some point, we need to find our own way out of a mess, and to learn how we can do it again next time with confidence. We need to realise that we’re actually perfectly capable of resolving difficult situations on our own.

It’s one thing for a leader to set an example by doing good work with and for the team. But when a leader takes over other people’s work, because they don’t believe it’ll get done, they become a hero.

Your people don’t need saving. They need you to create potential and then get out of the way.

Coby Chapple (@cobyism)

@cobyism—a.k.a. Coby Chapple is an autodidact, systems thinker, product architect, pixel technician, full-stack algorithmagician, multi-media maker, cryptography geek, aspiring linguist, and generalist Designerd™ extraordinaire. Read more »