Beyond heroic leadership


What is heroic leadership?

We live in a world full of ‘childish’ explicit expressions: hero based blockbusters, Santas bringing gifts, leaders running businesses and nations as (mostly) patriarchs. Our shared stories contain heroic deeds and there’s also The Hero With A Thousand Faces or Hero’s Journey. Our favorite music bands have ‘frontmen’. And so on… look around. Basically, the world serves us on the platter (no maturity here) different things, cherishing and indulging our childish sap while obstructing our psychological maturity development.

There are numerous adult development instruments discovering the same thing, decade after decade of research: as humanity, we are stuck into a heroic level of psychological development (see William R Torbert, Susanne Cook Greuter, Richard Barrett or Robert J. Anderson).

At this level, our leadership is:

  • mostly strategic and tactical: the main two leadership assumptions are that leaders are to be followed due to their authority and expertise and that they have to motivate and penalize their followers
  • lacking agility in difficult conversations: leaders are either extremely assertive or extremely accommodative, without finding the right balance.
  • managing groups through constant buy-in campaigns or too caught up in own work to dispose of the time for real leadership

Heroic leadership lies within our obelisk/ pyramid shaped organizations, vulgar displays of erectile perspective on the world: things and people have to be conquered, ordered and led from the front seat, from the patriarchal altitude.

Heroic leadership’s main dysfunction is its subordinates’ lack of motivation. Heroic leadership’s main legacy is psychological immaturity. Proper leadership development is both vertical (consciousness) and horizontal (competency) and leads a leader from a kind of reactive leadership to a creative leadership kind.

What’s beyond?

Post-heroic leadership (10% of the world’s leaders) is:

  • visionary, facilitative and oriented towards collaboration: it is about empowering and facilitating others’ own psychological development and growth and working along with other leaders towards a shared higher meaning
  • about learning, questioning assumptions, failing; finding the right balance of assertiveness and accommodative communication
  • intentional in creating a team of like-minded people and being part of it.

Seen from within an army waiting for a hero leader, post-heroic leadership is not sexy. It is balanced and boring. It asks the soldiers to questions their motivation to fight. It questions the war, even the enemy’s existence or the utility of ‘swords’. It motivates you slowly-slowly by listening to you and letting you fail without judgment. It grows your mind and soul. Bleah… A good fight is better.


Psychological maturity happens when we, as heroic leaders, discover the next stage. On this stage, innovation and creativity, fun and authenticity, engagement and dedication, compassion at work are regular plays. They are no longer dilemmas or unsolvable problems.

We’ve created a world needing more and more agility and psychological maturity from us. Its complexity requires a new step in our evolution. There’s the education for that, there’s leadership coaching, there are other practices.

Until then, let’s welcome the new Captain, XMan, Wonder Chick or Tony Star in our economy and hope they will bring on prosperity and peace.

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George Bragadireanu

George Bragadireanu