International leadership strategist and author of “Approaching the Corporate Heart”, Margot Cairnes, sees that leadership in today’s environment must move from the traditional “warrior model” who successfully led organisations in the industrial era, to what she calls “heroic leadership” and which others call post-heroic leadership.
The more heroic leadership is, however, the more it is self-defeating. The ‘hero line-continuum’ offers a real divergence between generating dependency and empowerment.
Any leader or coach’s belief that s/he can do everything better than anyone else is a root cause of inhibiting workforce productivity and professional effectiveness. A self-absorbed approach is very unhelpful and would never translate as an effective leadership or coaching skill.
Cairns defines heroic leaders as a more humble breed that is able to use coaching approaches to:
- Innovate, originate and develop – instead of the warrior model of intimidating, administering and maintaining;
- Focus on people – instead of the warrior focus on structure;
- Inspire trust – instead of the warrior reliance on control;
- Have a long-range view – instead of the warrior’s short-term view;
- Challenge the status quo – instead of accepting the status quo as the warrior does; and
- Ask what and why – instead of being “classic good soldiers” as warriors are.
Great leaders and coaches don’t subscribe to a “do-it-for-you” methodology of talent management, rather they develop team members by getting them to buy into a “do-it-yourself” work ethic. They meet questions, challenges, conflicts, and the like, with intelligent questions of their own. They use questions as an opportunity to create teachable moments. The proper use of questions allows them to direct the conversation and not be sucked into it. By redirecting the flow of a dialogue, they elicit critical information and show that they care about what the other person is thinking.
Unfortunately, executives, researchers and business writers have managed to convince many of us that if we just learn a few skills, practice a few ‘competencies’ and do a few more courses, we, too, can become leaders. If only it was that easy!
But there is a way to tap into the hero within all of us to engage and bring out the best in others.
Coaching can create leaders who people trust and are willing to follow – even though the leader cannot possibly have all the answers when everything is changing so rapidly. Managing complex issues and remaining globally competitive means changing the way leaders view the world so that they can create a new set of rules – with different attitudes, perspectives and behaviours. This will take the continuous recalibration and cognition of the deep-seated emotions that motivate individual leadership actions.
Coaches support this movement of leaders:
- from the warrior style of leadership to post-heroic leaders;
- from management by control to management by results;
- from long hours and historically male defined cultures to flexible and inclusive cultures that work for all employees;
- from diversity as solely a social justice issue, to diversity as a competitive business strategy; and
- they identify risk factors that may inhibit self-inquiry and personal growth.