Hero & Human: If You Are a Leader, You Better Show Both
The Leadership Paradox
Successful leadership is the right mix of opposite characteristics, thus, the Leadership Paradox. Leaders are required to navigate a fast-moving freeway between being a Superhero on the one hand and a Real Human on the other. It is a delicate mix that requires savvy insight. Leaders cannot err too much in one direction over another.
Respect & Identity
Leaders must be seen as someone deserving to be there: commanding, in charge, confident, inspiring—someone followers can look up to. Simultaneously, leaders must be accessible, vulnerable, and human–someone followers can identify with. The “Hero” in the leader commands respect. The “Human” in the leader creates identity. When both exist, leaders excel.
The Heroic Human
If leaders are too much “Hero,” followers cannot identify with them and thus feel no connection. They are perceived as remote, disconnected, aloof, and untouchable. On the other hand, if leaders err too much in the direction of “Human”—too fallible, too capricious, too flawed, followers lack respect and the impetus to follow. They may identify with them but have no desire to follow.
Heroes go above and beyond. They are willing to demand more of themselves than their followers, willing to ask the hard questions and administer the hard answers, and willing to enforce accountability. Heroes are people others look up to for inspiration, guidance, and sound footing. Heroes make those who follow them feel both secure AND challenged.
Good leaders understand their connectedness to humanity in all of us. Being ‘Human” means being vulnerable, accessible, and authentic. It means a willingness to admit error and say, “I was wrong” without stuttering out the “w.” Empathy is a powerful connector and happens when we can “be” with another person—whoever that may be. And most importantly, empathy is a powerful protector against narcissism.
If you want to increase your Leadership impact, embrace the Leadership Paradox by being both a Hero and a Human.