L h e b e r k a na l n s L l L u L e | 308 wesL flrsL avenue, sulLe 207 | spokane, wa | 99202 | 309. 833.

4228


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lor Loo long, Loo many of us have been enLranced by heroes. Þerhaps lL's our deslre Lo be
saved, Lo noL have Lo do Lhe hard work, Lo rely on someone else Lo flgure Lhlngs ouL.
ConsLanLly we are barraged by pollLlclans presenLlng Lhemselves as heroes, Lhe ones who wlll
flx everyLhlng and make our problems go away. lL's a seducLlve lmage, an enLlclng promlse.
And we keep bellevlng lL. Somewhere Lhere's someone who wlll make lL all beLLer.
Somewhere, Lhere's someone who's vlslonary, lnsplrlng, brllllanL, LrusLworLhy, and we'll all
happlly follow hlm or her. Somewhere.

Well, lL ls Llme for all Lhe heroes Lo go home, as Lhe poeL Wllllam SLafford wroLe. lL ls Llme for
us Lo glve up Lhese hopes and expecLaLlons LhaL only breed dependency and passlvlLy, and LhaL
do noL glve us soluLlons Lo Lhe challenges we face. lL ls Llme Lo sLop walLlng for someone Lo
save us. lL ls Llme Lo face Lhe LruLh of our slLuaLlon-LhaL we're all ln Lhls LogeLher, LhaL we all
have a volce-and flgure ouL how Lo moblllze Lhe hearLs and mlnds of everyone ln our
workplaces and communlLles.

Why do we conLlnue Lo hope for heroes? lL seems we assume cerLaln Lhlngs:

• Leaders have Lhe answers. 1hey know whaL Lo do.
• Þeople do whaL Lhey're Lold. 1hey [usL have Lo be glven good plans and
lnsLrucLlons.
• Plgh rlsk requlres hlgh conLrol. As slLuaLlons grow more complex and challenglng,
power needs Lo shlfL Lo Lhe Lop (wlLh Lhe leaders who know whaL Lo do.)

1hese bellefs glve rlse Lo Lhe models of command and conLrol revered ln organlzaLlons and
governmenLs world-wlde. 1hose aL Lhe boLLom of Lhe hlerarchy submlL Lo Lhe greaLer vlslon
and experLlse of Lhose above. Leaders promlse Lo geL us ouL of Lhls mess, we wllllngly
surrender lndlvldual auLonomy ln exchange for securlLy.

1he only predlcLable consequence of leaders' aLLempLs Lo wresL conLrol of a complex, even
chaoLlc slLuaLlon, ls LhaL Lhey creaLe more chaos. 1hey go lnLo lsolaLlon wlLh [usL a few key
advlsors, and aLLempL Lo flnd a slmple soluLlon (qulckly) Lo a complex problem. And people
pressure Lhem Lo do [usL LhaL. Lveryone wanLs Lhe problem Lo dlsappear, crles of ºflx lL!" arlse
from Lhe publlc. Leaders scramble Lo look llke Lhey've Laken charge and have everyLhlng ln
hand.

8uL Lhe causes of Loday's problems are complex and lnLerconnecLed. 1here are no
slmple answers, and no one lndlvldual can posslbly know whaL Lo do. We seem unable Lo
acknowledge Lhese complex reallLles. lnsLead, when Lhe leader falls Lo resolve Lhe crlsls, we
flre hlm or her, and lmmedlaLely begln searchlng for Lhe nexL (more perfecL) one. We don'L
quesLlon our expecLaLlons of leaders, we don'L quesLlon our deslre for heroes.



L h e b e r k a na l n s L l L u L e | 308 wesL flrsL avenue, sulLe 207 | spokane, wa | 99202 | 309. 833. 4228


2
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Perolc leadershlp resLs on Lhe llluslon LhaL someone (+' ." ln conLrol. ?eL we llve ln a world of
complex sysLems whose very exlsLence means Lhey are lnherenLly unconLrollable. no one ls ln
charge of our food sysLems. no one ls ln charge of our schools. no one ls ln charge of Lhe
envlronmenL. no one ls ln charge of naLlonal securlLy. no one ls ln charge! 1hese sysLems are
emergenL phenomena-Lhe resulL of Lhousands of small, local acLlons LhaL converged Lo creaLe
powerful sysLems wlLh properLles LhaL may bear llLLle or no resemblance Lo Lhe smaller acLlons
LhaL gave rlse Lo Lhem. 1hese are Lhe sysLems LhaL now domlnaLe our llves, Lhey cannoL be
changed by worklng backwards, focuslng on only a few slmple causes. And cerLalnly Lhey
cannoL be changed by Lhe boldesL vlslons of our mosL herolc leaders.

lf we wanL Lo be able Lo geL Lhese complex sysLems Lo work beLLer, we need Lo abandon our
rellance on Lhe leader-as-hero and lnvlLe ln Lhe leader-as-hosL. We need Lo supporL Lhose
leaders who know LhaL problems are complex, who know LhaL ln order Lo undersLand Lhe full
complexlLy of any lssue, all parLs of Lhe sysLem need Lo be lnvlLed ln Lo parLlclpaLe and
conLrlbuLe. We, as followers, need Lo glve our leaders Llme, paLlence, forglveness, and we
need Lo be wllllng Lo sLep up and conLrlbuLe.

1hese leaders-as-hosLs are candld enough Lo admlL LhaL Lhey don'L know whaL Lo do, Lhey
reallze LhaL lL's sheer foollshness Lo rely only on Lhem for answers. 8uL Lhey also know Lhey
can LrusL ln oLher people's creaLlvlLy and commlLmenL Lo geL Lhe work done. 1hey know LhaL
oLher people, no maLLer where Lhey are ln Lhe organlzaLlonal hlerarchy, can be as moLlvaLed,
dlllgenL and creaLlve as Lhe leader, glven Lhe rlghL lnvlLaLlon.

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Leaders who [ourney from hero Lo hosL have seen pasL Lhe negaLlve dynamlcs of pollLlcs and
opposlLlon LhaL hlerarchy breeds, Lhey've lgnored Lhe organlzaLlonal charLs and role
descrlpLlons LhaL conflne people's poLenLlal. lnsLead, Lhey've become curlous. Who's ln Lhls
organlzaLlon or communlLy? WhaL skllls and capaclLles mlghL Lhey offer lf Lhey were lnvlLed
lnLo Lhe work as full conLrlbuLors? WhaL do Lhey know, whaL lnslghLs do Lhey have LhaL mlghL
lead Lo a soluLlon Lo Lhls problem?

Leaders-as-hosLs know LhaL people wllllngly supporL Lhose Lhlngs Lhey've played a parL ln
creaLlng-LhaL you can'L expecL people Lo 'buy-ln' Lo plans and pro[ecLs developed elsewhere.
Leaders-as-hosLs lnvesL ln meanlngful conversaLlons among people from many parLs of Lhe
sysLem as Lhe mosL producLlve way Lo engender new lnslghLs and posslblllLles for acLlon. 1hey
LrusL LhaL people are wllllng Lo conLrlbuLe, and LhaL mosL people yearn Lo flnd meanlng and
posslblllLy ln Lhelr llves and work. And Lhese leaders know LhaL hosLlng oLhers ls Lhe only way
Lo geL complex, lnLracLable problems solved.

Leaders-as-hosLs don'L [usL benevolenLly leL go and LrusL LhaL people wlll do good work on
Lhelr own. Leaders have a greaL many Lhlngs Lo aLLend Lo, buL Lhese are qulLe dlfferenL Lhan
Lhe work of heroes. PosLlng leaders musL:

• provlde condlLlons and good group processes for people Lo work LogeLher.
• provlde resources of Llme, Lhe scarcesL commodlLy of all.
• lnslsL LhaL people and Lhe sysLem learn from experlence, frequenLly.
• offer unequlvocal supporL-people know Lhe leader ls Lhere for Lhem.

L h e b e r k a na l n s L l L u L e | 308 wesL flrsL avenue, sulLe 207 | spokane, wa | 99202 | 309. 833. 4228


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• keep Lhe bureaucracy aL bay, creaLlng oases (or bunkers) where people are less
encumbered by senseless demands for reporLs and admlnlsLrlvla.
• play defense wlLh oLher leaders who wanL Lo Lake back conLrol, who are crlLlcal
LhaL people have been glven Loo much freedom.
• reflecL back Lo people on a regular basls how Lhey're dolng, whaL Lhey're
accompllshlng, how far Lhey've [ourneyed.
• work wlLh people Lo develop relevanL measures of progress Lo make Lhelr
achlevemenLs vlslble.
• value convlvlallLy and esprlL de corps-noL false rah-rah acLlvlLles, buL Lhe splrlL
LhaL arlses ln any group LhaL accompllshes dlfflculL work LogeLher.

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lL's lmporLanL Lo noLe how leaders [ourneylng from hero Lo hosL use Lhelr poslLlonal power.
1hey have Lo work all levels of Lhe hlerarchy, mosL ofLen, lL's easler Lo galn supporL and respecL
from Lhe people Lhey lead Lhan lL ls Lo galn lL from Lhelr superlors. MosL senlor leaders of large
hlerarchles belleve ln Lhelr lnherenL superlorlLy, as proven by Lhe poslLlon Lhey've aLLalned.
1hey don'L belleve LhaL everyday people are as creaLlve or self-moLlvaLed as are Lhey. When
parLlclpaLlon ls suggesLed as Lhe means Lo gaLher lnslghLs and ldeas from sLaff on a complex
problem, senlor leaders ofLen wlll block such acLlvlLles. 1hey [usLlfy Lhelr opposlLlon by sLaLlng
LhaL people would use Lhls opporLunlLy Lo Lake advanLage of Lhe organlzaLlon, or LhaL Lhey
would suggesL ldeas LhaL have no bearlng Lo Lhe organlzaLlon's mlsslon, or LhaL people would
feel overly confldenL and oversLep Lhelr roles. ln LruLh, many senlor leaders vlew engaglng Lhe
whole sysLem as a LhreaL Lo Lhelr own power and conLrol. 1hey conslsLenLly choose for
conLrol, and Lhe resulLanL chaos, raLher Lhan lnvlLe people ln Lo solve dlfflculL and complex
problems.

Leaders who do know Lhe value of full engagemenL, who do LrusL Lhose Lhey lead, have Lo
consLanLly defend Lhelr sLaff from senlor leaders who lnslsL on more conLrols and more
bureaucracy Lo curLall Lhelr acLlvlLles, even when Lhose very acLlvlLles are produclng excellenL
resulLs. SLrange Lo say, buL Loo many senlor leaders choose conLrol over effecLlveness, Lhey're
wllllng Lo rlsk creaLlng more chaos by conLlnulng Lhelr Lake-charge, command and conLrol
leadershlp.

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1hose who've been held back ln conflnlng roles, who've been burled ln Lhe hlerarchy, wlll
evenLually blossom and develop ln Lhe company of a hosLlng leader. ?eL, lL Lakes Llme for
employees Lo belleve LhaL Lhls boss ls dlfferenL, LhaL Lhls leader acLually wanLs Lhem Lo
conLrlbuLe. lL can Lake 12 Lo 18 monLhs ln sysLems where people have been sllenced lnLo
submlsslon by auLocraLlc leadershlp. 1hese days, mosL people Lake a walL-and-see aLLlLude, no
longer lnLeresLed ln parLlclpaLlng because pasL lnvlLaLlons weren'L slncere, or dldn'L engage
Lhem ln meanlngful work. 1he leader needs Lo prove hlm or herself by conLlnually lnslsLlng
LhaL work cannoL be accompllshed, nor problems solved wlLhouL Lhe parLlclpaLlon of everyone.
lf Lhe message ls slncere and conslsLenL, people gradually reLurn Lo llfe, even people who have
dled on Lhe [ob, who're [usL walLlng unLll reLlremenL, can come allve ln Lhe presence of a
leader who encourages Lhem and creaLes opporLunlLles for Lhem Lo conLrlbuLe.

Leaders-as-hosLs need Lo be skllled conveners. 1hey reallze LhaL Lhelr organlzaLlon or
communlLy ls rlch ln resources, and LhaL Lhe easlesL way Lo dlscover Lhese ls Lo brlng dlverse
people LogeLher ln conversaLlons LhaL maLLer. Þeople who dldn'L llke each oLher, people who

L h e b e r k a na l n s L l L u L e | 308 wesL flrsL avenue, sulLe 207 | spokane, wa | 99202 | 309. 833. 4228


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dlscounLed and lgnored each oLher, people who felL lnvlslble, neglecLed, lefL ouL-Lhese are
Lhe people who can emerge from Lhelr boxes and labels Lo become lnLeresLlng, engaged
colleagues and clLlzens.

PosLlng meanlngful conversaLlons lsn'L abouL geLLlng people Lo llke each oLher or feel good.
lL's abouL creaLlng Lhe means for problems Lo geL solved, for Leams Lo funcLlon well, for people
Lo become energeLlc acLlvlsLs. PosLlng Leaders creaLe subsLanLlve change by relylng on
everyone's creaLlvlLy, commlLmenL and generoslLy. 1hey learn from flrsLhand experlence LhaL
Lhese quallLles are presenL ln [usL abouL everyone and ln every organlzaLlon. 1hey exLend
slncere lnvlLaLlons, ask good quesLlons, and have Lhe courage Lo supporL rlsk-Laklng and
experlmenLaLlon.

-&# F/@ $ 8#&/G

Many of us can geL caughL up acLlng llke heroes, noL from power drlves, buL from our good
lnLenLlons and deslres Lo help. Are you acLlng as a hero? Pere's how Lo know. ?ou're acLlng as
a hero when you belleve LhaL lf you [usL work harder, you'll flx Lhlngs, LhaL lf you [usL geL
smarLer or learn a new Lechnlque, you'll be able Lo solve problems for oLhers. ?ou're acLlng as
a hero lf you Lake on more and more pro[ecLs and causes and have less Llme for relaLlonshlps.
?ou're playlng Lhe hero lf you belleve LhaL you can save Lhe slLuaLlon, Lhe person, Lhe world.

Cur herolc lmpulses mosL ofLen are born from Lhe besL of lnLenLlons. We wanL Lo help, we
wanL Lo solve, we wanL Lo flx. ?eL Lhls ls Lhe llluslon of speclalness, LhaL we're Lhe only ones
who can offer help, servlce, skllls. lf we don'L do lL, nobody wlll. 1hls hero's paLh has only one
guaranLeed desLlnaLlon-we end up feellng lonely, exhausLed and unappreclaLed.

lL ls Llme for all us heroes Lo go home because, lf we do, we'll noLlce LhaL we're noL alone.
We're surrounded by people [usL llke us. 1hey Loo wanL Lo conLrlbuLe, Lhey Loo have ldeas,
Lhey wanL Lo be useful Lo oLhers and solve Lhelr own problems.

1ruLh be Lold, Lhey never wanLed heroes Lo rescue Lhem anyway.

ÞarLs of Lhls arLlcle are excerpLs from /+01 2$3 /+01 2'4 5 6"+%'-'& 78$%'"9 :'38 ;8<<$'-3-"#
=+%-'& 38 6->" 3?" @$3$%" A8BC MargareL WheaLley & ueborah lrleze. 8erreLL-koehler
Þubllshers, Aprll 2011.