Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.: Leading Quietly*
Now what I’m going to do today is talk for a while about research I’ve done over the last five years and completed with the publication of a book by that title: Leading Quietly. What I set out to do initially was to see what I could learn about leadership and effective leadership, if I looked beyond, if I looked away from, what I’ll call the heroic model. And the heroic model is one that, with the briefest sketch, is familiar to all of us. Who are heroic leaders? They are people who change the world or part of the world, they’ve got very strong values, they are charismatic, they are inspiring, they are willing to make sacrifices, sometimes, in some walks of life, the ultimate sacrifice, because they sacrificed their lives. I have no intention, here today or at any point, in tearing down all that the great figures have contributed to our world. Without them, our world would be a poorer and meaner place. Without them, we wouldn’t have examples of courage to talk to our kids and to others about. But the proposition I want to put in front of you today is that viewing leadership, particularly leadership in organizations, particularly in the middle of big, complicated business organizations, simply in terms of heroism, is a limited and sometimes even misleading perspective. Let me say a little bit more about why I think that’s the case. I think there are at least three problems with this heroic view. One of them I call the pyramid issue. If you think about the world in terms of heroes, you tend to have in the back of your mind a big triangle, and at the top you’ve got great leaders, and at the bottom, fill in your favorite candidates, the skunks, bottom-dwelling slugs, T.S. Eliot’s hollow men. What about everybody else who is in the middle? People who are neither out saving the world like great heroes, saving companies, saving brands, nor are they exploiting it. They are doing their jobs, living their lives,... [continues]
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