January 20, 2009

Heroic leader

Writing about The Dark Knight and Leadership from Jingjing's blog

I read this entry by Jing Jing and something that I`ve longed thought of came to my mind. To explain it I`ll go through a small personal history.

I have always liked to be in front of things so many years ago I was an intern in a company (actually a British one in Brazil) an they decided to hire a large number of interns at the same time to build the team of a new department they were creating. They divided us in teams of about 3-4 people each to handle different activities and at first they did not specify anyone to be "responsible" for each team, we were generally managed by the same person. But naturally each team ended up having an informal leader that was naturally recognised as so by everyone else (later it became formal, but I was already working in another area).

I was the leader of my team. We had an activity that was not fun, was kind of boring and repetitive but was probably the most risky one because one mistake could represent real losses for both the company and the client. I`m glad to say that compared to tha amount of transactions we handled we rarely committed mistakes, even though we once committed a big one that really was our fault, but since I was the leader I assumed it as my mistake, but in the other hand I`m ashamed to say that looking backwards we were so naive and had so little control and no understanding at all about processes, systems, etc. Anyway, we managed to be a very close and united team and even though the work was boring an repetitive we were proud together.

But there was something that gave me pleasure. I loved problems. When we had a problem or a complaint/question from our internal clients, even though that was a potential mistake we committed (most of the time it wasn`t) I liked because I had to investigate, to figure it out. Basically I loved outing "fires" of. It is understandable but it is also stupid. I liked being the hero and fixing things up. I liked the heroic leader thing. In my defence I have to say that I soon realised that rationally that was stupid, that even though my boss liked it and it put in me in a good position I`ve already understood that the simple fact that we had problems meant we had bad processes and planning. A heroic leader on that sense, someone who puts fires off is a bad thing. But as the literature recognises he is frequently praised and rewarded. I realised that many years ago (even though I benefited from it) and I`m glad all authors agree on that.

Of course JingJing posts can also refer to the heroic leader in the sense of the guy who had nothing to do with the lack of planning before and steps in to fix it. Churchill on WW2, Obama now, etc etc etc.

But the real good leader is the one who is able to avoid problems, is the unsung hero who prevents problems. But people do not see it.... 


- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Jingjing

    Thanks for your sharing, Francisco! A Chinese saying came to my mind after I read your post: “Times creat a hero.” But sometimes, people feel that a hero creat the times.

    20 Jan 2009, 19:19

  2. Hmm… when you said “since I was the leader I assumed it as my mistake, but in the other hand I`m ashamed to say that looking backwards we were so naive and had so little control and no understanding at all about processes, systems”, it really resonate with a feeling I had during MBE class activities, it’s all the greater responsibilities that rest in the leader, even though he may not be directly invovled…
    A realisation I had while ‘leading’ group discussions is that teamates begins to really look to me for answers. Sometimes they would ask questions and I felt I ought to give the right answer, even if I didnt know better … the feeling is difficult to explain but I guess ‘greater responsibility’ somehow capture bit of it. It was slightly awkard at first, because sometimes it feels like I suddenly gained ‘power’ ... but if not used carefully, this power can easily hurt other people…

    sorry if these thoughts seem disjoined…it’s probably because they are

    02 Feb 2009, 16:28

  3. Kang, I have the same problems. I got myself several times telling everyone I did not have the anwer, I was there to help organize, facilitate, stimulate, but not to give answers….

    04 Feb 2009, 22:10


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