Hero Complex

I want to spend a minute expounding on a previous post where I talked about having (past tense) a hero complex.  I guess the logical place to start is with a definition (albeit, mine) of hero complex.

It is similar in context to the arsonist firefighter lighting fires and then serving as a first responder.  Now to be fair, the arsonist firefighter has a much more negative connotation.  The hero complex is where you need to be the one who solves the hard problems and saves the day.  There are a few problems with this.

At face value, the hero is the one that everyone can depend on to solve the problems and put out fires.  This sounds like a great thing to have someone so dependable, but…  The team dynamic, when there is a hero, can turn ugly.

If there is always someone there to do for you what you can do yourself, you are then robbed of the ability to be accountable.  It also robs you of the glory of saving the day on your own.

I previously held the opinion that this is what a servant leader is.  Shielding the team from the stuff that was less fun aka site down.  That was something that I thought made a good leader.

In the Marine Corps, we were taught that you shouldn’t ask someone to do something that you were unwilling to do yourself.  I think that is a good starting point, but it will not win the race on its own.

When I reflect on those days, I realize that I had an issue because the people were not meeting my expectation.  This was not because they weren’t capable, but rather because I expected that they would be me.  Do things the way I would do it.  Looking back, I can say that this was pretty dumb.

The fact is they were all very talented engineers who could have solved any one of the many problems in an equal number of ways, and maybe one of them was my way.  The important piece is that they solved the problem and not how it was solved.

Now I can take another look at the servant leader and it’s role.  How can a leader best serve the team that he is responsible for?  That begs another question to be asked.  What is the team responsible for?  Your job as a leader is to make sure that they can do their job!  Get them the tools, training, extra help, etc. that is needed to get the job done.

It is a wise leader who can spot and draw out what the team needs to help them achieve their goals.  It is a wise leader who can inspire the team to improve and solve impossible problems.  Sorry, but it is time for a Simon Sinek quote.

It is the leader who should help the team develop why they do what they do instead of what they do.  It is the why they do what they do that will inspire them to come to work, login and do great things.

I started this post talking about the hero complex and how I was once afflicted with that disease.  I can say that I am hero free.  My focus now is to help my team develop our “Why” so that we can inspire each other.  Cheers…


Personal Brand

How do you market yourself?  What are the characteristics that you will promote to compel someone to take a chance on you?  These are questions that I have been asking myself lately.  The one thing that I have not done well is frame the answers relative to what I want to achieve.

What do I want?

This is a question that I have been asked quite a few times lately.  My vision is to be in a position to help guide an organization to deliver the highest value possible.  I want to be able to share visions of customer satisfaction delivered through technology.

Simon Sinek’s Ted talk “How Greater Leaders Inspire Action” is a video that I have watched several times.  He speaks of how the importance is greater in the Why you deliver awesome when compared to what that awesome is.

NOTE:  If you like his Ted talk, you will love his book!

In business, many companies have mission or vision statements that speak of building the best product or dominating a particular market but those are goals.  That doesn’t mention why you want to meet that goal.  Simon talks about common “why”s   such as “to make  money.”  He states that these are by products of doing business as usual.  The more interesting questions is why do you build that product or sell that product in the first place.

I am trying to apply that same rationale to my career.  Why do I want to be a leader of an organization?  I have questioned my leadership abilities lately and in reflection I realize that I was not focused on leading.  My focus was on other things, things that are more reminiscent of an individual contributor.  I can look in the rear view and see what mistakes I made and how I will correct them in the future.  But that still doesn’t help me answer the question!

I think the question that I am missing is what position will give me the ability to lead and guide a team.  Recently a distinction has been shown to me with the comparison to an Architect path and that of a Director/VP.  It was sold to me that the Director route is a tactical execution path, where the Architect is more strategic.  This has been debunked!

Even though that notion imploded, it did highlight exactly what it was that I was after.  I want to be a strategic leader focusing on how technology can best serve the business.  So now knowing what I want and why I want it, how can I market myself to achieve that goal?

This is a tricky question for a technical leadership position.  On the one hand, you need to show that you have the leadership traits and on the other hand you need to have the technical chops.  I have seen leaders come and go and the one killer that happened to all was the lack of technical respect from the team.  That is a hard sell, but a critical one.

So again, what would be the compelling traits to move up the ladder?  I don’t have an answer for this question.  I don’t know which ones are more important that the others.  Technical chops, emotional IQ, empathy, all these are important but does the order matter?  I have been doing a lot of reading (listening :)) lately to different respected leadership books and there are some common threads that I am noticing, so I hope the answer will come eventually.

For now, I am just plugging away.  Writing everyday to improve my written communication skills.  I am also spending more time on reading technical articles and other research to help hone my technical skills.  I WILL reach my goal, it is just a matter of when!